Canalway’s Cuyahoga River Rally highlights river history with music, fun on the water

Fifty-three years ago, on June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire—leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act, and a wakeup call to environmental awareness. Today, the river is in good shape, with consistent monitoring, cleanup efforts, and controls.

For the second year, on Saturday, June 25, Canalway will celebrate a “river renewed” by looking at how far the Cuyahoga River has come, the river’s history, and the lifestyle enhancements clean water provides at Cuyahoga River Rally—a free event on the river at Hart Crane Park in the Flats.

“It’s just a time to celebrate with the community and celebrate not just how far the river has come, but what it means to our lives,” says Canalway executive director Mera Cardenas. “River Rally offers so many opportunities to connect with and learn about our river.”

Cuyahoga River Rally kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday for the early birds who want to participate in Riverside Yoga with OneTreeLove or a Kayak River Cleanup with Eddie “TrashFish” Olschansky at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., or birding walking tours with the Greater Cleveland Aquarium at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Kayak tours down the Cuyahoga, led by Peter Bode of Community Life Collaborative and Jordyn Stoll of AOC Outreach Committee, will teach paddlers about the history of the river, current projects, and how you can help restore and improve Cuyahoga River water quality. One-hour tours are scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. There is a rental fee on kayaks.

Additional boat tours include Cleveland History Days Boat Tours onboard the Holiday Boat, featuring talks on “Cleveland’s Role in Great Lake Shipbuilding” and “Canal Basin Park & Hart Crane Memorial Park,” as well as a leisure tour on the Holiday Boat. The Cleveland Dragon Boat Association will offer Dragon Boat rides.

Other activities include scenic walking tours along the Lower Cuyahoga River Area of Concern on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and five-mile guided bike tours with Jim Sheehan and the Ohio City Bike Co-Op to learn about the Cuyahoga River fires, the comeback of the river, and the history of Cleveland’s Industrial Valley (bikes are not provided).

Registration is recommended for all rides and tours. 

The musical fun gears up with a music lineup from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Austin Walkin’ Cane, School of Rock Headliners,  Ben Gage Trio, and Lost State of Franklin. Sip on a cold beer in the beer garden by The Butcher & The Brewer.

Food is not provided, but Cardenas suggests packing a picnic or ordering takeout from Sainato’s, 1852 Columbus Road.

Representatives from the Cleveland Water Department, The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and the Amateur Boating and Boat Builders Society are also expected.

Cardenas says the main focus should be on the Cuyahoga River. “The River isn’t a barrier, but an opportunity,” she says. “I think sometimes the Cuyahoga River is something we cross over, something we go around. But it is something to explore and increase understanding of the river—and what it means and how it plays a role in our daily lives.”

For a complete list of events and times, click here.

Parking is limited. Minimal street parking is available on Columbus Road and in the Ohio City and The Flats neighborhoods, but taking a ride share, RTA. or biking to River Rally is suggested.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.