The park does not maintain the river channel on a regular basis, and stream conditions are ever changing. Paddlers must assume complete responsibility for their own safety.
Low head dams at Peninsula and Station Road require portage. DO NOT attempt to paddle over the dams. Dams are extremely dangerous, and drowning can occur in the hydraulic that forms below the dam.
Swift currents, log jams, and strainers are common and serious hazards on the river. Strainers are downed branches or trees that allow water to pass through. Currents can pull boats into the strainer, trapping the paddler and creating a potential drowning situation. Paddlers should portage around obvious hazards or areas of uncertainty.
After it rains, the water may contain bacteria from combined sewer overflows and storm water runoff. A high level of bacteria in the water can be a health hazard. Check the latest water quality information at Ohio NowCast. Advisories are posted by approximately 9:15 a.m. daily from May through October.
Make sure you are aware of your location on the river in case of emergency. In the event of an emergency call the park’s Communication Center at 440-546-5945 or dial 911.
Rules & Regulations
All paddlers on the Cuyahoga River should be familiar with Federal, State, and Park regulations that apply to the river. Ohio boating laws apply to all paddlers in Ohio, including visitors from other states. The National Park Service does not allow any alcohol to be consumed on Cuyahoga Valley National Park property without a permit.
- ORC 1547.54 All boats–including canoes, kayaks, motorboats, and most inflatable boats– must be registered. Ohio law requires that a boat’s registration be carried onboard the boat. Bring proof of residency if you are visiting from a state that does not require canoes or kayaks to be registered.
- ORC 1547.25 U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are required for every person onboard. They must be in serviceable condition and correctly sized for the wearer.
- ORC 1547.24 Children under the age of 10 are required to wear a properly fitted, US Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on a boat under 18 feet in length.
- ORC 1547.11 Operating any boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited. Ohio’s limit for impairment is 0.08 blood alcohol content level for persons who are of legal drinking age. It’s 0.02 for anyone who is under 21. (Alcohol is not permitted on the river or in the national park.)
- ORC 1531.29 Disposing of any item considered to be litter in any ditch, stream, river, lake, pond, or other waterway is illegal.
- Children under the age of 12 who are operating a manually propelled boat must be directly supervised by an adult.
- Respect the rights of landowners. Be aware that some of the land along the river is privately owned. Seek the owner’s permission before using any private property.
Paddling Opportunities Outside the Park
Visit the Cuyahoga River Water Trail website for more information about paddling outside the park.
Opportunities are growing. The list below may not be comprehensive.
- Camp Hi provides river trips on the Upper Cuyahoga River.
- Crooked River Adventures offers river trips starting from Tannery Park in Kent.
- Burning River Adventures operates from Water Works Park in Cuyahoga Falls.
- Cleveland Metroparks’ is adjacent to the Rivergate River in Cleveland. It is one location where they offer guided paddling programs.