Our Rocky River

Water flows downstream, but we are going to travel upstream to find out where our beloved Rocky River goes.

At its mouth, where it flows into Lake Erie, is the Cleveland Yachting Club on Yacht Club Island. The island was originally owned by the City of Lakewood, but in 1946 it was annexed to the City of Rocky River.

But, in our area, most of the Rocky River is within the boundary of Lakewood. Starting at the beginning of Detroit Road and Valley Parkway, which follows the Rocky River, Scenic Park was originally an amusement park, where some residents paid to get into, and others swam across the river to sneak in for free. Now, it is the site of the Emerald Necklace Marina (ice cream, boat launch, kayak rentals).

At the foot of Rockcliff Drive is Rockcliff Spring (now dry), formerly Stein’s Spring. Stein’s Spring
originally surfaced half-way up Rockcliff Drive, but those stopping to fill up on spring water caused too much congestion, so it was re-routed to its present location.

Up Hogsback Lane is the William Stinchcomb Memorial. He was the founder of the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District. The Lorain Road bridge area, in my opinion, is the most picturesque spot in the park, especially in the fall. Up top at the Brookpark bridge is NASA and Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Here on the west side is the City of Fairview Park and on the east side is Cleveland.

Continuing on our journey, we come to the Rocky River Nature Center at Shepard Lane, with its shale cliffs and American Indian earthworks. Fort Hill, behind the Nature Center, is named after ancient Indian fortifications. Just past the Nature Center is Little Cedar Point, where the Rocky River divides into the West Branch and the East Branch.

Following the West Branch, one immediately passes Frostville in North Olmsted – a group of buildings owned by the Olmsted Historical Society, showcasing living history of the 19th century. Dr. Elias Carrington Frost was an early settler who opened a post office in the area in 1829.

Beyond is the Lewis Road Riding Ring. Columbia Road/Route 252 now parallels the West Branch of the Rocky River. Continuing south on this road, one passes Nobottom Road on the east side and then enters Olmsted Falls (from the falls on the Rocky River). The Ohio Historical Marker on the Olmsted Falls Village Green at Water Street states: “In 1795, The Connecticut Land Company auctioned 25 square miles of land known as Plum Creek Twp. Aaron Olmsted, a sea captain, purchased almost one half the property. He died before seeing his land. In 1829, his son Charles offered to donate books to the area in exchange for changing the settlement’s name from Lenox
to Olmsted. Olmsted Falls was incorporated in 1856 for public to graze their livestock.”

At the intersection of Water Street and the Rocky River is David Fortier River Park. David Fortier was a mayor of Olmsted Falls who died in an auto accident. Plum Creek, one of two major tributaries of the Rocky River, enters the river in David Fortier River Park, and parallels it on
the west side into Medina County.

At Sprague Road, Columbia Road becomes West River Road and Route 252 makes a jog to the east, crossing the river, and becomes East River Road, thus, the river is sandwiched between these two roads.

Going south, at their intersection with Route 82, West River Road enters Columbia Center and East River Road enters Columbia Hills Corner, and in between is Columbia Reservation, part of Lorain County Metroparks.

Further south on East River Road/Route 252, one passes Red Wagon Farm, known for their “Pick Your Own Strawberries”, and then comes Valley City at Route 303, the Frog Jumping Capital of Ohio. The festival is held every August.

Route 252 is still following the West Branch of the Rocky River, but further south after the intersection of Route 252 and Abbeyville Road (runs southeast), in Medina County, the river more closely follows Abbeyville Road, and the second major tributary, Mallet Creek, named for Dan Mallet, an early settler, joins it from Medina.

After crossing Route 42 and Route 3, the West Branch of the Rocky River trails off north and east of Medina. In the 1800’s, Medina was a center for beehive manufacturing – in 1869, Amos Root founded the A.I. Root Co. to make beekeeping equipment, and the A.I. Root Co. still exists today as a retail candle outlet.

Robert Frost, in his poem “The Road not Taken” states, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both …”, but we are going to start back at Little Cedar Point and follow the East Branch of the Rocky River.

Another scenic spot, especially in the fall, along the way south on the East Branch is Berea Falls, near the intersection of Nobottom Road and Barrett Road. (From Route 252 going east, Nobottom Road ends at the West Branch of the Rocky River, and then continues up again on the
east side of the West Branch and runs to Barrett Road and the East Branch).

Rocky River Reservation becomes Mill Stream Run Reservation and the East Branch of the Rocky River enlarges to become Baldwin Lake in Berea. Sandstone came from the banks of the Rocky River in the 1840’s. John Baldwin, a Berea founding father, invented a lathe to cut stone into grindstones, which made Berea sandstone famous. Continuing south through Strongsville and North Royalton, the river enters Hinckley Reservation, where the East Branch forms the 90-acre Hinckley Lake, bordered by the 350-foot high Whipps Ledges, before curving back north for a short distance, ending in West Richfield. Hinckley was named after Judge Samuel Hinckley, a land speculator from Massachusetts.

By Gay A. Christensen-Dean

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, Cleveland Metroparks, Olmsted Falls Library