The National Park Service is best known for parks like Cuyahoga Valley National Park. However, it also has programs that help communities protect natural and historic sites. One example is the National Natural Landmarks program. The nation’s best biological and geological features can earn this designation. Almost 600 landmarks have been named. One landmark, Tinkers Creek Gorge, is located within the boundaries of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Its awe-inspiring beauty stands out in winter, making it a good destination this time of year.
Tinkers Creek Gorge is part of Bedford Reservation. Cleveland Metroparks created Bedford Reservation in 1926; in 1967 Tinkers Creek Gorge earned National Natural Landmark designation. When Cuyahoga Valley National Park was established in 1974, it boundaries encompassed several metroparks, including Bedford Reservation.
The power of water is on display in Tinkers Creek Gorge. The gorge was cut by Tinkers Creek, the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River. The gorge extends for two miles along the lower part of the creek. The creek drops dramatically through the gorge, which approaches 200 feet deep in places. The water runs straight and swiftly, with whitewater and numerous small cascades. This contrasts against the slower, meandering course of the Cuyahoga River.
The steep walls and exposed rock faces of the gorge are easier to view in winter without the shroud of trees. The National Natural Landmark nomination also notes how the gorge protects habitats, including virgin oak-hickory and beech-maple-hemlock forests. In winter, eastern hemlocks are particularly noticeable. It is an evergreen tree that likes cool, moist areas like the gorge.
You can view Tinkers Creek Gorge from a scenic overlook on Gorge Parkway between Dunham and Egbert roads in Walton Hills. If you are looking for a walk, park at the Egbert Picnic Area. The 1.1-mile Egbert Loop Trail skirts the upper edge of the gorge, providing spectacular views. From this trail, you can also follow a horse trail down to the edge of the creek. For a longer walk along the creek’s edge, take the 0.8-mile Hemlock Loop Trail from the Hemlock Creek Picnic Area, an area known for spring wildflowers. You can find a map online at www.clevelandmetroparks.com. For both trails, be prepared for winter conditions of snow and ice.
While the steepness of Tinkers Creek Gorge kept some development at bay, people were attracted to the creek’s waterpower. Viaduct Park within Bedford Reservation is a place to view the intersection of nature and history. It is located at the corner of Willis Street and Taylor Road in the City of Bedford. A 15-feet-high waterfall can be found there, as well as the remains of a mill race. The park’s focal point is a stone viaduct built in 1865 to carry the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad high over the gorge.
Tinkers Creek Gorge shares outstanding company on the list of 599 currently designated National Natural Landmarks. There are 23 landmarks located within Ohio, including forest communities, marshes, glacial formations, bluffs, and gorges. Others that may be familiar include Mentor Marsh and the Glacial Grooves State Memorial on Kelleys Island.
The newest National Natural Landmark earned designation in 2016. It is the West Bijou Site, located east of Denver, Colorado. It contains some of the most scientifically important exposures of rocks that provide evidence for the role of an asteroid impact in the extinction of dinosaurs. West Bijou Site provides an excellent example of a valuable geologic resource located within a natural shortgrass prairie ecosystem.
The National Park Service has sponsored a photography contest of National Natural Landmarks. The contest no longer occurs, but past winners are posted online. Visiting the website offers a visual tour of landmarks. Go to www.nps.gov/subjects/nnlandmarks/photocontest.htm.