Fall is the perfect time to get some exercise and experience the changing of the seasons. Keep up-to-date with the changing of the fall color and find suggestions on how to stay fit by visiting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Fall Color web page and Get Fit....Naturally web page. As you are checking out the colors, stop by some of these very special places in northeast Ohio:
Explore an Estuary - In an estuary, the lake water mixes with the river water; this provides a great place for young aquatic animals to find food and shelter, and also attracts birds and mammals. In northeast Ohio, we are fortunate to have access two freshwater estuaries. Old Woman Creek, in Huron, has a visitor's center and trails that take you to various marsh, open water, and wooded areas. In the northeast corner of Lake County, Arcola Creek Park has a short trail to the mouth of the estuary and an overlook of one of the marshy areas.
Float a Boat - Head south out of Cleveland and take to the water. If you have your own boat, there are public launches on almost every river in northeast Ohio. However, if you'd just like to rent a canoe or kayak for the day, head down to either the Mohican River or the Tuscarawas River. These two rivers are major tributaries of the Muskingum River, which was once an important transportation route across the state. There's even more water fun at the reservoirs of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. The reservoirs of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) have the essential functions of flood reduction and water conservation. But millions of people visit the reservoirs each year for outdoor recreation. Overnight boat docks are available for short-term and long-term stays, and the permanent lakes feature free public boat launch ramps that offer easy access to the water
Pedal Your Way Back in Time - Is biking more your speed? Early railroads often followed rivers for the gentler grades. There are several places in northeast Ohio where those old railways have been turned into bike trails. You can follow the Clear Fork tributary stream of the Mohican River along the Richland B&O Trail from Mansfield to Butler. Or a little further east you can bike alongside the Amish buggies on the Holmes County Trail as it follows Salt Creek to the Killbuck River. The Western Reserve Greenway is a mostly rural rail-trail that cuts a north-south course from Ashtabula to Warren, Ohio. The greenway's start is only a few miles from Lake Erie, but you are in the Ohio River watershed by the time you reach the other end. The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail or simply the 'towpath,' as it is more commonly known, is one of Ohio's longest and most scenic bikeways winding through parts of Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark and Tuscarawas counties.
Find a Floodplain - Along a river there are typically low-lying lands that get flooded when the water rises. These floodplains are dangerous places to build houses or businesses, but they make for great parks. In Rocky River Reservation, you can hike, bike, or rollerblade along the floodplain of the river for 13 miles, as the All Purpose trail winds along the floodplains. If you're looking for a quieter floodplain to explore, the Augusta-Anne Olsen State Nature Preserve protects a floodplain forest along the Vermillion River. This preserve is an excellent place to see birds, spring wildflowers, and salamanders.
Experience the Shore of a Great Lake - Lake Erie is an important force in the economy and weather of northeast Ohio, but when is the last time you actually stopped by to watch the waves crash ashore? On the west side, Avon Lake's Veteran's Memorial Park provides prime views from the top of a bluff as well as from the beach below. And in Cleveland, you can now head to the lake shore and stand on a river bottom without getting your feet wet. Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve is 88 acres of land jutting out into the lake that were created with materials dredged from the bottom of the Cuyahoga River. It is now home to an amazing diversity of plant and animal species. On the east side, there is the unique Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve. This preserve actually gets bigger every year as sand accumulates along the breakwall. For more lake shore adventure check out the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail.
Working Water - Early settlers to Ohio used the energy of falling water to run machines and modified our rivers to move goods. You can see an old mill (and may other buildings) in Carroll County at the Algonquin Mill Complex. At one time, this structure turned the local harvest into flour and cornmeal just by using gravity. In Summit County, there are many remnants of the canal system that carried people into Ohio and carried farm goods out to Lake Erie for shipment back east. At Deep Lock Quarry Metro Park, you can see Lock 28 as well as the quarry these and many other structural stones were cut from.
Natural Sculpture - Water works on rocks, eating away at them over time. Some rock types are particularly suited to forming interesting shapes and spaces to explore. In Portage County, you can hike, duck, and crawl through crevices at Nelson Ledges State Park. You can also hike from the Lake Erie watershed into the Ohio River watershed on the ¾ mile trail. Medina County Parks feature Princess Ledges, a nature preserve that was originally intended to be an allotment of summer homes.
Glimpse What Glaciers Left - In many places across the region, retreating glaciers literally left an impression on the landscape. These low spots have filled in with groundwater over the years. The largest glacial lake in Ohio is the centerpiece of Punderson State Park in Newbury. The mile-long lake is over 100 feet deep in places! Smaller impressions, known as bogs, have been filled in by unique wetland plants. There are several bogs in Portage County, including Kent Bog, a State Nature Preserve. Near Shreve, in Wayne County, you can also explore Brown's Lake Bog.
Feeling overwhelmed by the logistics of traveling to one of these places? You can stay closer to home and still find a reason to go outdoors. Ohio is a hotspot for geocaching - a hide-and-seek game that uses GPS devices. Click here to learn more the fun and adventure of geocaching. Chances are you'll pass by a geocache today.