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.

We Welcome Your Comments

This is the first Picture Ohio! article, and we would love to receive your comments and suggestions, either via our Ian Adams Photography Facebook Page or via email (ijadams@neo.rr.com) if you prefer.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ian,

    What fabulous photographs and wonderful commentary regarding the Gorge.
    And a special thank you for the mention on our new High Bridge Glens Park. I take great pleasure in your remarks as the redesigned park was our project in the Development Department.

    I marvel over your photography and always enjoy viewing your latest. Thank you for your note to the Mayor. P.S. Jim Roetzel is my neighbor.

  2. Susan: Glad you liked the article. The Cuyahoga River Gorge is a special place – especially in winter! Jim Roetzel is a great bird photographer, and I enjoyed our collaboration on the Cuyahoga Valley National Park book.

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