Filed Under Environment

Beaver Marsh

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park contains over 1500 wetlands, which remain important sanctuaries of biodiversity and habitats for endangered species. Also important for the local environment, these wetlands store nutrients and reduce erosion and flooding in the valley. Threatened by pollution from the nearby human residents, as well as invasive plants and disturbances from development, these wetlands need scientists and park rangers to continuously monitor and protect their water quality and levels.

Just south of the Village of Everett, on the western side of the Cuyahoga River, the Beaver Marsh stands as a testament to the success of community efforts to protect the valley's wetlands. Beginning in the nineteenth century, local land development drained water and resources from the original wetland. As industry, transportation, and valley populations increased, the wetland's plants and animals struggled to survive. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Ohio & Erie Canal passed through the marsh. Later, a local family owned and operated a dairy farm on part of the original wetland property, adding to the devastation of the area's resources. Further damaging the environment, an auto repair shop purchased the land in the twentieth century and began dumping old cars and broken parts on the former marsh.

Clean-up and restoration of the wetland began in the 1980s by the Portage Trail Group, Sierra Club, and National Park Service. These groups and local community members cleaned up trash, including car parts. Beavers, who had been absent from Ohio for over one hundred years due to fur trappers, slowly returned to the valley. The beavers' dams flooded the former wetland, creating deep pools of water so that the beavers can enter their lodges from below the surface. The help of both humans and beavers removed pollution and restored water levels to create the wetland we see today.

Images

Towpath through the Marsh Visitors to the national park can still use the towpath trail to travel through the Beaver Marsh. The National Park Service created a boardwalk over the marshland to prevent the trail from damaging the land and wildlife. Photo by Sara Guren / Courtesy of the National Park Service.
Ohio and Erie Canal Located just to the west of the Cuyahoga River, the Beaver Marsh was once divided by the Ohio & Erie Canal and accompanying towpath. Oxen and horses walked down the towpath to pull boats along the canal.
Bird Watching No longer polluted by farms or automobile waste, the Beaver Marsh hosts diverse sets of wildlife that attract nature enthusiasts. Bird watchers come to the marsh throughout the year to see songbirds, wood ducks, and other water fowl. Visitors can also see painted turtles, muskrats, and, of course, beavers. Photo by Sara Guren / Courtesy of the National Park Service.
Restoration of the Wetlands In addition to restoring water levels, beavers and their den construction awakened dormant plant seeds underneath the wetland soil. Plants have since returned to the marsh, attracting other diverse wildlife to the natural habitat and sanctuary. Photo by Tom Jones / Courtesy of the National Park Service.
Beaver Dens Beavers built a series of dams to allow underwater entry to their dens. This strategy helps beavers gather supplies and food without setting foot on land where dangerous predators live. The deeper pools of water created by this system of beaver dams helped restore water levels to the marsh. Photo by Jack Rigby / Courtesy of the National Park Service.
Beavers Beavers were once threatened by hunters in search of fur and had not lived in Ohio for over a hundred years. Thankfully, with the environmental changes seen during recent decades, a number of them have returned to the Cuyahoga valley. In the remnants of the Ohio & Erie Canal, the beavers have helped restore water levels to the wetland. Photo by Jack Rigby / Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Location

Metadata

Carolyn Zulandt, “Beaver Marsh,” Cleveland Historical, accessed January 16, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/352.