The Cuyahoga River was one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The span from Cleveland to Akron was devoid of fish.
40 years ago today, the river caught fire and captured the attention of Time magazine, which described the Cuyahoga as the river that “oozes rather than flows.”
The infamous fire spurred a clean-up campaign and grassroots activism that resulted in a wave of federal legislation devoted to clean air, clean water, and natural resource protection.
Today, the Cuyahoga is home to more than 60 species of fish. Beavers, blue herons and bald eagles nest along the river’s banks.
Historical photo credit: Cleveland Press Collection at Cleveland State University Library
“The first time Gene Roberts fell into the Cuyahoga River, he worried he might die. The year was 1963, and the river was still an open sewer for industrial waste. . . Recently, Mr. Roberts returned to the river and said, ‘It’s a miracle. The river has come back to life.'”