Akron, Ohio (Summit County)
Park either at the furthest parking lot in the Chuckery area of Cascade Valley Metro Park, off Cuyahoga Street, or at the small gravel lot on Front Street, just south of the bridge over the Cuyahoga River near Cuyahoga Falls Avenue.
Duration: 2 hours.
Type: in and back on same trail.
Accessibility: No. (stairs)
Starting at the Front Street parking lot on the Akron side of the Cuyahoga River, the Highbridge Trail follows the southern bank of the lake formed by the old Ohio Edison dam across the Cuyahoga River. Along this stretch of the trail, the native plant community has been disturbed by ongoing maintenance of overhead powerlines which parallel the trail until reaching Cascade Valley. While the elimination of dominant trees from the powerline area negatively impacts the forest plant communities, it provides an interesting lesson as you hike along the trail. Notice the plants growing along the trail and to the south on the uphill slope. Many of the plant species you will find are adapted to high light environments such as forest gaps or edges. Examples are Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), which you will recognize even in winter by the velvety bunches of upright fruit which remind one of stagís horns, and pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) a tall growing herb with poisonous blue berries formerly used as ink. Additionally you will see a variety of grapevines (Vitis spp.), raspberries (Rubus spp.), the invasive thorny shrub Japanese multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), and a number of invasive honeysuckle shrubs (Lonicera spp.)
The forest along the Highbridge Trail.
Contrast this with the nature of the woods to the north of the trail after you pass the dam. While these woods appear to be more sparsely populated with plants than the areas directly adjacent to the powerlines, the species found here are more representative of what would have been found in less disturbed forests. A small number of Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) dot the landscape, with a number of wildflowers thriving in the ground layer, including bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), white-flowered trillium (Trilium grandiflorum). Even in this less disturbed portion of the forest, you will notice invasive shrubs congregated about gaps in the canopy, reaching for the precious light.
As you cross under the State Road Bridge, the trail descends and separates from the powerline at this point. You will notice that in addition to becoming more natural appearing, the forest transitions from a predominantly Red and Black Oak (Quercus spp.) community to a mix of oaks, maples (Acer spp.), beech (Fagus grandifolium), and tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera). As you descend further, the oaks become less dominant and you start to the peeling bark of sycamore (Plantanus occidentalis), cottonwood (Populus deltoides), and other typical floodplain trees. Observe carefully and you will start to discern the conditions that allow the various tree species to thrive in one area and not in another.
A buck rub along the Highbridge Trail
Near the end of the trail, you will descend stone stairs built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930ís. Once down these beautiful stairs, you may want to walk along the Chuckery trail to the right for some nice views of the Cuyahoga River, or cross the fields to the left and visit the signal tree, a three hundred year old Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) shaped by native Americans into a sign to take their canoes out of the river and begin the eight mile portage to the Tuscarawus River.
Gorge MetroPark closes at sunset. Cascade Valley is open until 11 p.m.
Chuckery Trail, Cascade Valley MetroPark (Metroparks, Serving Summit County)
Oxbow Trail, Cascade Valley (Metroparks, Serving Summit County)
Schumaker Valley Trail, Cascade Valley (Metroparks, Serving Summit County)
Glens Trail, Gorge (Metroparks, Serving Summit County)
GorgeTrail, Gorge (Metroparks, Serving Summit County)