Beaver Marsh in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is short, flat, wheel-friendly hike that has the potential for seeing a lot of animals. The length of this hike is up to you, though you could go several miles. We only walked about a half mile total to the marsh and back, but our boys loved looking for animals in the large, wide Beaver Marsh.
This stop is located in the south end of the park. There is a large parking area at the Ira Trailhead, and a trail begins near the information kiosk and splits after only about 50 yards. You can take the Towpath Trail either way, but we recommend the left, because there is a wide viewing platform just a short distance away. This is where Beaver Marsh lies.
The animals are really the reason to visit Beaver Marsh. We weren’t disappointed as we spotted a snapping turtle on the trail just a dozen paces from the car. This turtle was quite big and had a surprisingly long, spiky tail, just like a dinosaur. When you see the turtles, they go into a defensive behavior, and though they don’t pull their heads in like you see in cartoons, they do freeze and open their grumpy mouths. We didn’t get close enough to get snapped at, and we watched for about 5 minutes. We saw two snapping turtles, too. As soon as you stop watching, these turtles disappear into the long grass.
We also saw frogs in Beaver Marsh. As we walked along the boardwalk, we could hear their peculiar, throaty rasp, which can’t really be mistaken for anything else. We’d stop and look, and if the sound was nearby, we could usually spot the frog, which would easily fit in your hand. We saw two varieties of frogs on the lilypads in Beaver Marsh.
There are a lot of kinds of birds in Beaver Marsh. There was an almost constant tapping from woodpeckers, which have beautiful red marking on their throats. Eastern Blue Jays swooped down from the trees, picking at the forest floor. We even saw wood ducks and their babies sitting on a log in the middle of the pond.
After a short walk along the boardwalk, you come to a large viewing platform. We didn’t see any beavers, but we did spot a few great blue herons. Red-winged blackbirds were flying all through this area, and we did spot a bright orange oriole in the trees. At the far end of the platform, we turned around and headed back to the parking area, though we could have gone farther.
If spotting animals is your favorite thing to do in a National Park, make Beaver Marsh your first stop in Cuyahoga Valley. This trail is flat and easy and doable for anyone. We didn’t see another person on this trail because it had been rainy earlier, but we have heard that the parking lot fills up. We recommend going early morning or later evening to avoid crowds, and that’s the best time to see the animals. For other family-friendly hikes, check out our Cuyahoga Valley Kid Hikes post.