Cuyahoga River

Fish Habitat Restored

Steel bulkheads that lined the Cuyahoga River and prevented fish from finding food or shelter have now been replaced with natural shore habitat and a park for the community. The project is anticipated to lead to a healthier and more diverse population of fish in the river and Lake Erie.


To aid navigation in the shipping channel, steel bulkheads were driven into the sediment of the Cuyahoga River years ago. However, these bulkheads provided little in the way of natural features, such as rocks and crevices, which fish and their food require to survive. All that has changed for an 11-acre site located on the Scranton Peninsula on the Cuyahoga River shipping channel, which is the final six miles of the river before it empties into Lake Erie. About 3,000 feet of fish habitat has been created by removing the steel bulkheads and replacing them with sloping river banks dotted with native plants. The nearby land that was formerly a railroad yard and coal storage site has been cleaned up and turned into a park. The contaminated sediment has been replaced, and the park has benches for people to sit and enjoy the view, as well as interpretative stations, allowing the community to learn about the restored waterway.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of habitat for aquatic life
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Polluted sediment


Trout swimming underwater

Restoring natural shorelines with plants in the urban Cuyahoga River will allow fish to return. Credit: Dan O’Keefe Michigan Sea Grant.

Results and Accomplishments

About 3,000 feet of fish habitat has been created by replacing the steel bulkheads with native plants. These plants will help put more oxygen in the water allowing fish and other aquatic organisms to thrive, slow water flow and catch sediment, and improve water quality. The park also connects to the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which retraces some of the original route taken by the Ohio and Erie Canal and now stretches about 80 miles.