Ranger Brady Bourquin
Located in northeastern Ohio along the banks of the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park protects and preserves 33,000 acres of deep forests, rolling hills and open farmlands. Visitors come from all over the country and abroad to observe the park’s incredible array of flora and fauna, as well as enjoy the park’s many recreational activities. From hiking the Towpath Trail to attending a concert to fishing the river and surrounding lakes and ponds, Cuyahoga Valley offers something fun for all ages and interests.
NPF sat down with Park Ranger Brady Bourquin in 2012 to ask how to plan the perfect escape to Cuyhoga Valley National Park.
Why did you become a park ranger?
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a teacher; my folks are both retired teachers and they demonstrated the positive role that a good teacher can have in developing young lives. When I realized that park rangers were teachers whose classrooms were the most beautiful and influential places this country has to offer, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that as soon as possible. The stories and ideas that the National Park Service protects and shares are very important to me and I have yet to find another place where I seem to fit as nicely!
Can't Miss Activities
Without question, a visit to Cuyahoga Valley National Park MUST include a stop at Brandywine Falls, a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, and a walk or bike ride on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Visiting and taking part in these three elements of the park will allow you to experience the beauty, history and recreational value that this valley has to offer.
Village of Peninsula
When I’m in Cuyahoga Valley National Park as a visitor, I really enjoy the area in and around the Village of Peninsula. Whether it is visiting the restaurants and businesses to share stories with the owner or just sitting quietly by the river near Lock 29, there is a little bit of something for any mood that I might be in. Even if I decide to go for a strenuous hike, my favorite trailhead, Pine Lane, is also located just on the edge of the village.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
The best train ride through the park is any shared with friends or family. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers visitors the opportunity to see the park from the “inside out,” and to do so without having to do any more work than they wish! Riders can sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of the valley during all seasons. Most importantly, you have the opportunity to enjoy some time with your friends and loved ones as you travel through the heart of one of America’s treasures. Visit the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad website for tickets and more information.
The Buckeye Trail from Pine Lane Trailhead to Boston and back provides beautiful views of the Cuyahoga Valley from isolation, as well as from above the Ohio Turnpike. It allows for an interesting blend of the urban and not-so-urban setting in which this park is located. You really get to experience being in the middle of nowhere, and yet being close to the mass transit of the Ohio Turnpike. Also, this section of trail has some amazing elevation changes that will get your heart beating!
The most obvious answer to the question of when is best to visit the park is autumn. This is the time when the leaves change color and just before they fall to the ground; it looks as if the valley is on fire. The smell of fall is everywhere in the valley and this is the time that really allows the visitor to appreciate the dynamic beauty that can be found in Northeast Ohio. My favorite season, however, is winter. During the winter months, after the leaves have fallen from the trees, a hiker gets to see the size and scope of the park that is often hidden by foliage. Putting on a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis lets the visitor experience the park trails in a way that is unparalleled during any other season.
The name Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area was changed to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in 2000 due to a congressional action in an appropriations bill (October 11, 2000, P.L. 106-291 Cuyahoga Valley National Park). It was addressing a long-standing need to be identified with the National Park Service; a recreation area can be identified with other federal agencies, such as the National Forest Service.
The weirdest thing I've seen in the park is human footprints in freshly fallen snow. I walked out of a visitor center one snowy winter day to find the prints of a barefoot person in the snow. My initial thought was of concern for the individual who was out in the park and didn’t have shoes, and then I began to think of where these tracks were leading. After following the tracks for a little while, I came in contact with the man who was making them. He had hit the end of his running loop and was headed back to his car, wearing minimalist running shoes designed to form to the foot, yet provide protection from the elements. Everything turned out to be ok, but for a moment, I was prepared to come across a person in the snow, in their bare feet!