The Black River

Formed by the confluence of the West and East Branches of the Black River at Elyria, Ohio, the Canesadooharie River, once known as the Riviere en Gyrs, flows gently past Sheffield, Ohio and into Lorain, Ohio. The two named rivers were probably actually different rivers nearby.

It gets confusing because in the 1700s this river was known as both the Reneshoua River and la Riviere de la Cuiliere by early French and British explorers as the safest harboring spot along the ‘cliffs.’ These cliffs extended many miles along the Southern Lake Erie shoreline from here almost to the mouth of the Cuyahoga (the Crooked River). There were no beaches along the cliffs for landing even small boats and the cliffs were too steep and high to climb.

There is more convoluted history about this river involving falls, Native Americans, Col. James Smith who was captured by Native Americans, additional names and references to ‘black pearls.’ But most of it is conjecture and not confirmed as fact.

How the Black River got its name is unknown by historians although there is a hint that shale lined its banks and that was possibly the origin of this name.

Whatever that name origin, the river was home to Native American and eventually settlers. The 1800s started the development along this river into a major industrial area. The United States Steel Corporation lived here, and, the steamboat “Lexington” was constructed by the Black River Steamboats Association. Shipbuilding eventually evolved into the American Ship Building company producing the Great Lake vessels from 1818 to 1981. Additional industry was produced along this river including cement and the Ford Motor Company among others. Below is an abandoned industrial building.

As with the Cuyahoga, the Black River became polluted by industry. The industries died a slow death with steel surviving to this day as an industry and employer. But, the river has been revived with ecological renovations along its banks. Newer, better-retaining walls have been built with shelving for fish. This has produced the spawning of many varieties of native fish including the famous Lake Erie Yellow Perch, Walleye, varieties of Bass and others. Below is more abandoned industrial equipment.

The 4 miles of industrial banks of the river have been cleaned up in that the sludge has been moved back, away from the banks so the natural soil is exposed and producing native foliage and trees. This has brought in nesting eagles and Blue Heron. The double-breasted Canadian Cormorants have invaded here and are profuse in the upper river toward the end of the 4 miles. Their nests can be seen in the trees that become stripped, although not killed, by their very acidic droppings. And, large webbings of caterpillars cling to the tree branches.  Below you can see the sludge in the background and the reclaimed river bank in the foreground. Can you see the Blue Heron?

And here are the Cormorants.

 And Caterpillars!

This industrial-related boat is sunk to the bottom and has been abandoned for some time.

The Lorain Port Authority sponsors a variety of tours on the Black River. One of them is a Nature Tour that travels out to the Historic Lorain Lighthouse and then slowly back up the river with narration about the aforementioned details. Captain Ron has been piloting on the Great Lakes for 34 years, and on the Black River for several. He is very knowledgeable about the historical industrial sites, many of which left large structures behind. At the same time, Captain Ron can explain all of the ecological renovations and improvements along the 4 miles of riverbank. And, he knows all about the returning fish and waterfowl. It is a fascinating 2 and 1/2 hour tour about the come back of a very polluted Black River. Contact the Lorain Port Authority for details.

Thanks, Captain Ron!

While steel is still very much an industry in Lorain, it no longer pollutes the Black River as this abandoned complex can attest to.

 

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