This Month’s Featured National Heritage Area: 110 Miles and Endless Possibilities at the Ohio & Erie Canalway
By Dan Rice, Co-Executive Director, Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area
Whether you like to hike, bicycle, run, ride horses, or explore 19th century history, you’ll find plenty to do at the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area in northeast Ohio. Designated a national heritage area by Congress in 1996, the Ohio & Erie Canalway celebrates the nature and history of the canal from Cleveland to New Philadelphia.
Constructed in 1832, the Ohio & Erie Canal served as a major transportation link between the western United States and the eastern coastal states, catapulting Ohio from a rural isolated settlement to the third most populous state in the nation by the 1850s. Today, the heritage area provides three main ways to experience the rich history of the Ohio & Erie Canalway.
- Walk or bicycle along the canal. Follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal along the same path once used by the mules and horses that pulled the canal boats. Hikers and bicyclists can explore 85 miles of the popular Towpath Trail, which is scheduled to expand by 16 miles by 2020. Forty-eight trailheads offer parking and easy trail access. Most pathways are level and ADA-accessible, and the trail offers helpful visitor centers with information on canal-era history and resources for travel planning. For example, the newly renovated Richard Howe House Visitors Center in downtown Akron offers meeting rooms, interactive displays, and hands-on exhibits on the construction of the canal and its impact on the city.
- Ride the rails. Travel back in time with a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad on a 50-mile route from Cleveland to Akron through the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park. From the comfort of vintage railroad cars, visitors enjoy a scenic excursion through the historic Cuyahoga Valley and visit the canal-era towns of Boston and Peninsula.
- Drive the countryside. Take a leisurely drive along America’s Byway, the canal area’s 110-mile scenic roadway through 58 communities, four counties, and multiple parks. Along the way, visitors can discover world-class attractions like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Pro Football Hall of Fame; outstanding local food attractions like the West Side Market, the country’s largest indoor/outdoor market; and natural wonders like Tinker’s Creek, a natural landmark near Cleveland.
The Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area is a fun way to experience a major part of Ohio’s history, with endless possibilities for adventures along the Towpath Trail, America’s Byway, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and other spectacular sites. Learn more at www.ohioanderiecanalway.com.
This story is part of our monthly series on national heritage areas, the large lived-in landscapes managed through innovative partnerships to tell America’s cultural history. See more stories in this series.