Cuyahoga River Gorge Icicles – Act 2

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge

The cold weather continues to provide a spectacular display of icicles in the Cuyahoga River Gorge at High Glens Bridge Park in Cuyahoga Falls.

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge

Here’s a black-&-white version, converted in Photoshop CS5.

Which do you prefer?

Picture Ohio! – The Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Sinar F 4×5-inch View Camera, 90mm lens, Fujichrome Velvia

Directions: The Cuyahoga River Gorge is located in Cuyahoga Falls, about 5 miles north of downtown Akron. The most impressive part of the gorge stretches from Broad Street, south along Front Street for about a quarter of a mile. The Sheraton Suites hotel is alongside the upper section of the gorge, on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River. The Rte. 8 Expressway flanks the gorge on the east side. Approaching from the north or south on Rte. 8, exit at Broad Street, go west one block, and turn left (south) on Front Street. The best place to park is at the south end of the Sheraton Suites parking lot, or you can park along Front Street a bit further south.

Website: (Sheraton Suites area map)

GPS: 41.129782N 81.483038W

Perhaps I’m biased, because I live in Cuyahoga Falls, but the display of icicles along the cliffs of the Cuyahoga River Gorge in winter is the best I have seen anywhere  in Ohio. Thanks to a new city park, the icicles are also very accessible for photography.

Over thousands of years, the Cuyahoga River has carved a deep gorge just south of downtown Cuyahoga Falls, featuring 80-foot cliffs of Sharon Conglomerate sandstone in the steepest section, just south of the Sheraton Suites hotel. The river tumbles over several small waterfalls above and below the hotel, and in winter icicles line the cliffs for several hundred feet downstream. Most of the icicles are white or light blue, but some are stained brown from the minerals that seep out of the cliffs, as you can see in the photograph above, taken in 1990  from the base of the cliffs after a hazardous, 1/4-mile scramble from the end of the Glens hiking trail, carrying a Sinar F view camera in a Kelty backpack and a heavy Bogen tripod.

From 1879 to the 1920s, High Bridge Glens Park operated as a summer resort at Front Street and Prospect Avenue, featuring a dance pavilion, waterfalls, a cavern, rock formations, and a roller coaster. Included in the park was the High Glens Bridge, a suspension footbridge built 80 feet above the Cuyahoga River. At the height of its popularity in the 1890s, the park attracted up to 60 trainloads of visitors a day, and the dancing pavilion was packed with hundreds of people in the evening. The popularity of the park began to decline in 1912 when a local power company built a dam downstream from the park which destroyed some of the best scenery, and the park closed in the 1920s, when factories were built along Front Street that blocked access to the river. During 2009 the Prospect Avenue Observation Bridge was restored, a gazebo was built, and a three-level wooden ramp with several viewing areas was constructed in the gorge. The new High  Bridge Glens Park, complete with an Ohio historical marker, was opened by Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don L. Robart on October 14, 2009.

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Nikon D2X, 16-85mm lens, ISO 100, f/16 at 1/15-second

Begin your visit by walking out on the newly restored Prospect Avenue Overlook Bridge, which provides great views of the Cuyahoga River gorge to the north and south. There are a couple of waterfalls just north of the bridge, and the main group of icicles lines the overhanging base of the cliffs on the east side of the river to the south. A wide-angle lens will let you capture the entire gorge, or you can zoom in with a telephoto lens to isolate one of the waterfalls upriver or a group of icicles downstream. A sturdy tripod is indispensable for fine-tuning your compositions and allowing the use of low ISO settings to maximize image quality. The photograph above was taken from the Prospect Avenue Overlook Bridge.

Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Icicles, Cuyahoga River Gorge, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Sony Alpha 850, 70-300mm lens, ISO 100, F/11 at 1/10-second

For a bird’s-eye view of the icicles, walk south from the observation bridge to the gazebo, then follow the zigzag boardwalk down to several viewing platforms. The final one is perched about 45 feet above the river. There is an American sycamore tree and a few other small trees in front of the viewing platform, but in winter, without leaves, the trees don’t obscure much of the view of the icicles, which are directly in front of you across the river.  The photograph shown above was taken from the lowest viewing platform.

Icicles are best photographed on overcast days, when the diffuse light from the cloudy sky minimizes the tonal contrast in the gorge, which can range from black in the shadows under the cliffs to pure white in some of the icicles.  The visual complexity of the icicle formations is not usually enhanced by direct sun, which creates bright highlights and deep shadows with a dynamic range that can be hard to capture, even with the latest digital camera technology.

January usually provides the best (i.e. coldest) conditions that are needed for a great icicle display. The cold weather during December, 2010 has produced a spectacular display of icicles in the gorge, but the temperature is predicted to warm up into the low 40’s during the last week of the month, so make haste and visit soon if you would like to view the Cuyahoga River Gorge at its wintry best!

The Sheraton Suites hotel’s Piatto Novo restaurant offers good food and panoramic views of the gorge, and is a great place to warm up and  enjoy lunch  after your icy photo shoot.

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Picture Ohio! A New Series of Blog Articles

One of the Midwest's Best Icicle Displays

I’m often asked to name my favorite place in Ohio for photography.  My tongue-in-cheek response: “Wherever in Ohio I happen to be at the time!” That’s an honest answer, because there are wonderful places to photograph in every corner of the Buckeye State.

More than 150 of these places – scenic vistas, waterfalls, natural areas, public gardens, historic barns and bridges, rural areas, historic buildings and murals – are described in my new book, A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio, which will be released by Ohio University Press in Spring, 2011.

Every two weeks, beginning tomorrow, I will be previewing information on one of these photogenic Ohio places on my blog, as well as a few other Ohio photo locations that couldn’t be included in the book because of space constraints. For the next three months or so, I’ll highlight some great places for winter photography around the Buckeye State.

All of the sites in Picture Ohio! are open to the public and freely accessible. Most are free, except for a few public gardens that charge a small admission fee.  I have visited and photographed each of the places I’ll describe, most of them more than once and some of them dozens of times over the years.

For each place covered in Picture Ohio! I will include directions, a GPS location, and a phone number or a website, if available,  where you can find more information.

Based on my visits, I’ll share some suggestions on when to visit each place, as well as  some photography tips. But don’t expect to find detailed instructions on exactly where to stand and what lens, f/stop, and shutter speed to use – this isn’t a cookie cutter guide to Ohio travel photography. Use the information to decide if you want to visit a place, and when you get there explore the location visually from your own perspective and decide how you would like to interpret and photograph the scene. Travel photography is a never-ending journey, and each time I return to a favorite Ohio location I look forward to finding new ways to view the subject through my camera’s lens.

Check back tomorrow for the first Picture Ohio! location, shown in the photo above – Ohio’s finest display of icicles!