Deep in the bowels of the industrial Flats, surrounded by steel plants and rolling mills, there’s a beach.
Scrambling down a scrubby hill, I find several neon green and blue kayaks resting on the sand beside a bend in the Cuyahoga River. Fifty years ago this month, that river was so polluted it caught on fire. Yet here are three men, lounging in the kayaks on its banks, drinking Great Lakes Brewing Co. Edmund Fitzgerald. They offer me a beer.
I say no. I’m on the clock. But really, I’m just nervous. Today we are heading out on a 6 1/2-mile journey that will take us through the industrial Cuyahoga. And I’m worried I’ll be too much of a wimp to finish the trip.
I have lived in Cleveland for almost a decade and in that time, I have passed over the river on bridges, ogled the old Coast Guard station at its mouth, eaten meals on patios a few feet from its lapping waters and walked along trails that trace its length. I even once rode along the industrial channel in a boat.