Sometimes an adventure escape doesn't require hours of travel to get to a remote forest, river or trail. Sometimes all you need is to take advantage of what exists in your own city for a satisfying urban adventure. Perfect for a mid-week escape or even a lunchtime adventure fix, locate a green spot on your map and get out there and explore!
I've visited Cleveland on numerous occasions, usually for a baseball game or to enjoy some craft beers. It wasn't until my last visit that I had the time to explore the city in-depth, and I was pleasantly surprised by what Cleveland had to offer. I discovered that one of the best ways to get a different perspective of the city is to head out kayaking on the Cuyahoga River.
What caught me by surprise here was the great infrastructure that Cleveland has in place for adventure-seekers. There are about a half dozen local operators offering kayak rentals for anyone who wants to paddle along the local lakes and rivers. Cleveland Metroparks is one of them, and they can hook you up with all sorts of gear if you don't have your own stuff, since they’re “The Institute of the Great Outdoors” in Cleveland! I was given a standard rental kayak, a plastic Necky Zoar sport kayak and hit the water with some new friends. It was actually a great handling kayak and made for a fun day out on the water.
Of course, this is the Cuyahoga River and you are near downtown Cleveland, so it's a working river with Steel Mills and crazy big freighters that go up and down the river. When it is freighter time, you clear out and get out of the way - these things are huge! It made for some interesting changes in scenery compared to the usual lake and river kayaking I am used to.
Despite that, the river also offered up some nice wildlife experiences, so you get a nature feel in the city. Scenery along the way changed from families of ducks and greenery to old mills, lift bridges and waterfront bars and entertainment venues. It was a great escape in Cleveland, something that we often overlook when it comes to our adventure needs!
There are a number of put-ins to gain access to the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, with the area known as the Flats being a popular spot. Rivergate Park is perhaps the best spot, with kayak rentals available and located far enough up river from Lake Erie, and far enough down river from Scranton Park, that you can enjoy as much time on the water as you desire. If you head down river the Cuyahoga River splits off to the Old River at Whiskey Island, a mix of industrial buildings and outdoor fun. Wendy Park is a great spot here, right close to Lake Erie and is another ideal spot to put-in if it is a calm day and you want to do some lake kayaking.
Personally, I happened to like Rivergate Park as my entry/exit point as I rewarded myself with a couple of cold beers at Merwin Wharf afterwards and it was conveniently located fairly close to my hotel.