The walls of abandoned canal locks crumble, and give way to a lily pad-choked pool full of largemouth bass and bluegill.
Midland painted turtles (Chrysemys picta marginata) bask on logs. Some kind of frogs croak constantly. Fish rise between clumps of weeds to snap at damsel flies. Red-wing blackbirds, cardinals and great blue herons call the marsh home in the summer. It’s hard to imagine that this wetland was a junkyard.
Beaver Marsh, located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, floods a section of the Towpath Trail. The trail served as a path for the horses and mules pulling the canal boats, a series of locks and canals that link Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico – via the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas Rivers. Now yuppies like me ride their bikes down it, or in this case, ride over a boardwalk through a marsh.
This particular section was flooded in the mid-1980s by beavers that moved back and created a wetland after being extirpated a hundred years before. A bunch of volunteers helped clean up the junk, and the beavers did the rest, creating a system of dams that flooded the area, turning what the CVNP was planning on turning into a parking lot, into 70 acres of what’s probably the most biological diverse wetland in NE Ohio.
But it’s really a terrible place to fish. You can’t turn around without snagging somebody in the spandex on your back cast. The fish are holding in pockets of water smaller than a pool table, surrounded by milfoil and lily so thick, there’s not much you can do to get them to shore, even if you get them to take.
But the place is connected to the Cuyahoga River – which I’m really interested in general. And it’s wild and really fishy. So I go, and break fish off and spook huge carp that seem to be mocking me.
But I don’t think I will be putting the folks on the bikes or the plein air painters at risk much longer. Just as soon as I figure out to hook and land one of those carp, I’ll leave. Promise.