Hiram College

It’s hard for even me to believe, but in the 40-some-odd years that I’ve lived in or near Hiram – including my time as an undergraduate student here – I had never gone on a canoe trip down the Cuyahoga River. So, when such a trip was offered as part of the 2008 Alumni Weekend, I signed up right away; it seemed like fun, and besides, I’m a little bit of a nature buff, so it would give me a better look at what was going on in the water under those bridges I’d been driving over for decades.

Director of the Center for Science Education Matt Sorrick ’91 and Rob Roberston ’91 were the leaders for this event on Saturday afternoon, and they orchestrated a great experience. After being shuttled from the Hiram campus to Camp Hi, we all gathered in a pavillion – protected from the rain and drizzle that we were hoping would dissipate – and ate a boxed lunch. Then Camp Hi bussed us up the river – and although the day started out rainy, none of the 40 or so of us who clambered into the canoes by the old Riverside Inn got wet (at least, not from the rain).

I had the fortune of partnering with Matt Sorrick for the ride down the river, and so got a wonderful education – and answers to most all of my questions (“what weed is that? Are there fish in here? How fast is the water moving?). Matt and some of his colleagues have been doing this – and similar trips – for years, using them as invaluable educational experiences for students (and also for teachers who want to really learn how to best teach science to the K-12 contingent of students). We saw plenty of beaver lodges, both well-established and in the early construction stages; geese, ducks, and other waterfowl; and more than we cared to see of deer flies.

Even though we were on the river at a relatively high-water time of year, I was surprised by how consistently shallow the river was. Usually, if you reached down into the water with your paddle, you could touch the bottom. Matt joked that when he first canoed the Cuyahoga, his guide said, “If for some reason, you tip over and go in, don’t panic. Just stand up.” And for the most part, you could do this. In the drier seasons, there were even sections of the river where you would have to get out and carry the canoes to deeper water.

One other element that influences the water level in this section of the Cuyahoga is how much water the city of Akron is using from La Due reservoir. Later in the summer, Akron will start making use of its water supply in La Due, and that water is released from the reservoir into the river, then diverted to Akron.

After about 2 1/2 hours of paddling and drifting, we had made our way back downstream to Camp Hi where we had started, and my river adventure came to a close. At least for now; I have a feeling I’ll be back.

I must confess that one of the reasons I had not taken a summer canoe trip down this – or any river – before, is because I am sure that the bridges we’d pass under would be rife with fat, monsterous spiders – all waiting their chance to jump on me. I’m happy to report to other acrophobes out there that the one bridge we did pass under did not appear to be teaming with anything, much less spiders.

Next time (and I’m pretty sure there WILL be a next time), though, I’ll bring my bug repellant, a hat, and my sunscreen (what? It was raining when we started!).

Photos by Rob Roberston ’91