Posted by Mike on

Exploring the Cascade Locks

Exploring the Cascade Locks
On Sunday, Shelby and I decided to wake up a little early, and go for a walk.  I hopped on the Ohio and Erie Canalway website, and downloaded some “quests“, which are kind of like Geocaching, but with more back story behind the clues.  You can pick up the pamphlets at different visitors centers in the area.
We decided to head to the Cascade Locks area, as it’s one of Shelby’s favorite spots.  She loves to explore the old canal locks, Cascade Mills, the Mustill Store, and the old railroad bridges.  There is a lot of history in a 1/4 mile section of the towpath.
So, we printed out our instructions, and hopped in the car.  Out of the three quests we had in that area, we decided to start with Questing the Cascade Locks.  This started us at the Mustill store parking lot, and the information Kiosk located at that point.
After having Shelby read the various rhyming clues, we learned that the spillway for lock 15, directly across from the store, runs right underneath the porch of the building.  It can still be seen as a small trench from the upstream end of the lock, down to the Little Cuyahoga river.
Now, this was beginning to be fun for me too.  What started as a simple excuse to get outside, and have Shelby learn some things, turned into an educational experience for me as well.  I had never really noticed the trench, and when we hit this point, it got me to look around and observe the layout of the area even more.  Even though inside the Mustill store there are plenty of historical exhibits and pictures, I like to simply daydream and imagine what the area looked like 150 years ago, when all of it was still a functioning canal.

Lock 15 is on the left.  You can see the remains of the spillway on the right side of the path, and the ramp to the Mustill Store’s porch at bottom right.

We found our way across North Street, over to lock 14.  Shelby is fascinated by canal locks.  She knows the simple stuff, like how old they are, that canal boats used them to make their way up or downhill, and that they used to be full of water, but, more surprisingly for a 7 year old, she understands exactly HOW they worked, and the actual process used to either lift or lower a boat.  I credit the exhibits in the store and various visitor centers with teaching her this.  Most of the time, she simply glances over the exhibits, and heads straight for where the stuffed animals are stored, but when it comes to the interactive lock exhibit, she can easily spend 15 minutes just playing with it, not realizing she’s learning.
As we were going through the various clues, the sky started threatening.  Unfortunately, we were operating with paper, which doesn’t do so well in the rain.  We stepped up our pace a little, and walked up to lock 12, which is nicely covered by a new foot bridge with a roof, since it passes directly under the high railroad bridge spanning the valley.  We spent 10 minutes or so looking at the various details of lock 12 and both the new an old piers for the current and former railroad bridges while we waited out the rain that finally began to fall.
Our last clue pointed us to the secret box, which contains a log book and a stamp.  As we were standing under the roof, we could see the box, about 30 feet away.  Not knowing how long the rain would last, I decided to just use the umbrella and head over to it.
Shelby deciphered the way to open the box, and we went ahead and signed the log book, and stamped her paper.  At this point, we were getting hungry, and the rain was still falling, so we headed back to the car, and determined that the best course of action would be to grab some breakfast and head home.
After a good meal at Akron Family Restaurant, (highly recommended for it’s good food, service, and prices) we made our way home.  We still have two more quests to do in the Cascade locks area, and over 40 more scattered around the Canalway, which runs from Cleveland, through the Cuyahoga Valley, Akron, and on south to Canton and Massillon.