by Arrye Rosser, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Lately I’ve been fishing in local archives, casting around for clues to the Cuyahoga River’s complex history. Since August is a time for outdoor adventures, I thought I’d share two contrasting images that caught my eye. 

The first is misleadingly ordinary: children climbing a tree. The who, where, and when make this unique. Opie Evans was an African American photographer who documented Akron life in the mid-1900s. Here he captures a playful moment that other professionals overlooked. Six black boys explore the Little Cuyahoga River in the Elizabeth Park neighborhood, circa 1950-1969. I love how confident and casual they seem in nature. No adults, no organized group—they are at home, (literally) hanging out with friends. 

The second is earlier. It shows the Gorge between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls in 1910. A few years later, the Ohio Edison Dam construction buried this section underwater. The scene looks wild and gothic. I’m waiting for tragic lovers, a rustic woodsman, or a romantic poet to stroll into view. 

Time in nature allows us to test ourselves physically, experience wonder, capture glimpses of beauty, journey with others, or reflect in solitude. What do you seek?

PHOTO CREDIT: Opie Evans photo used with permission from the University of Akron Archival Services. Gorge photo used with permission from the Cuyahoga Falls Historical Society.

Arrye Rosser is an interpretive and education specialist at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and co-curator of Crooked River Contrasts, a photo series on the past and present of the Cuyahoga River.

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