Cuyahoga Valley National Park–Brandywine Falls

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Cuyahoga Valley NP–Brandywine Falls
Coordinates: 41.2769034, -81.5394115
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Photos by Susan Carpenter
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Ohio Birding Day Hike
Brandywine Gorge Trail
This is a gorgeous 1.5-mile trail that runs right by an unforgettable, rumbling waterfall. The trail itself is a brisk, rejuvenating hike and it is very well-kept. Aside from the scenic views, you are likely to encounter plenty of wildlife such as birds, butterflies, and chipmunks. Modern wooden decking leads to incredible views of the roaring waterfall from a safe distance.
From 10 Best Hikes in Ohio (RootsRated)

Park at the Brandwine Falls Picnic Area off Brandywine Road.

The Brandywine Gorge Trail lets you explore beyond the waterfall. It starts near the bed and breakfast and follows the edge of the gorge, eventually taking you down to creek level. The trail is worth revisiting in the spring to view vernal pools that temporarily fill with water, attracting breeding salamanders. The views of the creek and the layers of rock it has exposed are also worth the walk.

Brandywine Falls is a place to return to time and time again, to watch the changing seasons such as seen in fall colors and spring vernal pools. It is also a place to watch the moods of the waterfall. With less water, the bridal-veil pattern becomes more pronounced. In winter, ice becomes the attraction. Immediately after storms, water torrents over the falls, often in higher volumes than would have occurred historically, because run-off from upstream paved surfaces has increased water flow.

About Brandywine Falls
Carved by Brandywine Creek, the 65-foot falls demonstrates classic geological features of waterfalls. A layer of hard rock caps the waterfall, protecting softer layers of rock below. In this case, the top layer is Berea Sandstone. The softer layers include Bedford and Cleveland shales, soft rocks formed from mud found on the sea floor that covered this area 350-400 million years ago. Shale is thinly chunked, giving water a bridal veil appearance as it cascades down the falls.

A combination of boardwalk and steps brings you into the waterfall’s gorge and lets you view the waterfall head-on (a boardwalk option without stairs is also available). The boardwalk also provides a close look at Berea Sandstone. Careful inspection will reveal the individual grains of sand that accumulated in a sea 320 million years ago. Berea Sandstone is high-quality sandstone found commonly throughout this area, both in nature and as a construction material used in buildings and canal locks.

The moistness of the gorge is evident as you walk along the boardwalk. The moisture invites moss to grow on the sandstone and eastern hemlocks, an evergreen tree, to grow along the gorge. The hemlocks contrast with the abundant red maple trees in the area, which flame with color in the fall.

Early settlers in the valley saw the falls not just as an object of beauty, but as something to be used for its water power. In 1814, George Wallace built a sawmill at the top of the falls. Grist and woolen mills followed. The Village of Brandywine grew around the mills and became one of the earliest communities to emerge in the Cuyahoga Valley. Much of the village is now mostly gone, lost to the construction of nearby Interstate 271. However, the James Wallace house, built by George’s son, remains and is a bed & breakfast, the Inn at Brandywine Falls.

The 1.5-mile Brandywine Gorge Trail lets you explore beyond the waterfall. It starts near the bed and breakfast and follows the edge of the gorge, eventually taking you down to creek level. The trail is worth revisiting in the spring to view vernal pools that temporarily fill with water, attracting breeding salamanders. The views of the creek and the layers of rock it has exposed are also worth the walk.

Brandywine Falls is a place to return to time and time again, to watch the changing seasons such as seen in fall colors and spring vernal pools. It is also a place to watch the moods of the waterfall. With less water, the bridal-veil pattern becomes more pronounced. In winter, ice becomes the attraction. Immediately after storms, water torrents over the falls, often in higher volumes than would have occurred historically, because run-off from upstream paved surfaces has increased water flow.

Brandywine Falls is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
From Brandywine Falls webpage

About Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Though a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
From Cuyahoga Valley National Park website

Warning: All areas of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are prone to deer ticks from the early spring until late fall, so prepare accordingly before birding.

Restrooms at locations identified on Cuyahoga Valley National Park map. Most areas have non-flush toilets; there are flush toilets available at the Pine Hollow parking lot on Quick Road and the Virginia Kendall Lake lodge building.