Mantua – While many kids used their time off school on Martin Luther King Day sleeping in or hanging around the house being bored, several CIS students used that day to have an adventure back to the canal era of the mid 1800’s. During this special Nature Trek, led by Crestwood Intermediate teacher Rosemary Krupar, students had the opportunity to explore the interactive exhibits at the new Canal Exploration Center in the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which was opened that day especially for them.

Through the self-guided tour, the group learned that before the canal was built, much of Ohio was still considered wilderness, where passenger travel and moving of products was very difficult. After the canal was built, between 1825 and 1832, business and commerce flourished throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York along these watery interstate “highways”, which expanded in the years before railroads and roads were constructed.

At the Center, students became canal boat pilots via an interactive display that let them pilot a virtual boat through a lock, just like it was done back in the day. They saw weird-but-true artifacts from Ohio’s canal days, including a two-seat latrine salvaged from onboard a boat, and read the diary entry of a teenage canal worker. They heard a recording of John Malvin, a free African-American who became a canal boat captain, and watched a brief video of cultural and political climate in the early 19th century. After the tour, the group ventured outdoors to investigate the lock outside the Visitor Center.  They then hiked a portion of the Canal Towpath Trail, the same path that mules walked to tow canal boats loaded with goods and passengers.

After lunch, the group trekked to nearby Brandywine Falls, one of CVNP’s most visited attractions. The 65-foot falls, carved by the Brandywine Creek, was partially frozen that day, giving the group a rare treat, according to CVNP Rangers. Nature Trekkers hiked along the frosty boardwalk for a birds-eye view above the falls.

Brandywine Falls is open year round, although the boardwalk to below the falls is closed during the winter. The Canal Visitor Center, which once served as a tavern and general store, is open on weekends from 10 am – 4 pm throughout the winter months. It is located at 7104 Canal Road in Valley View. For details and seasonal hours, visit www.nps.gov/cuva.

For more information on how your child can participate in the next Nature Trek experience, contact Rosemary Krupar at rkrupar@crestwoodschools.org.