Cuyahoga River fire

photo of student climate protest in Cleveland

This story was originally published on July 22, 2019.

Fifty years ago a burning river mobilized a generation of environmental activism. Citizens pushed for new laws to regulate pollution, and our water and air has gotten cleaner.

But significant environmental challenges remain including climate change, habitat loss, and plastics pollution.

Our series Watershed looks at today’s environmental warriors and the road ahead.

photo of Cuyahoga River

The Cuyahoga River received national attention this year with the 50th anniversary of the famous river fire. And one expert says 2020 could be just as busy for recreation on the river.

Arrye Rosser opens a 1969 issue of Time Magazine that shined a spotlight on the Cuyahoga River.
Mark Arehart / WKSU

When the Cuyahoga River caught fire 50 years ago it helped spark an environmental movement in America. However, there was little coverage at the time and no known photographic evidence of the actual blaze.

A photo that appeared in a 1969 Time Magazine article is often attributed to the fire.

For our latest story in our series Watershed, a look at the power of photography and how it’s shaped our understanding of the burning river.

photo of Cuyahoga River

Fifty years ago, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. And it really didn’t become a big deal nationally until more than a month later when Time magazine ran an article on the fire.

Fifty years later, the river has rebounded. Watershed is a series from WKSU News looking at our waterways and what the future holds for them. In our opening story, we take a look at the current state of “the burning river.”

photo of Blazing Paddles

About 250 people participated in the second annual “Blazing Paddles” event Saturday, as part of the commemoration of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire.

photo of Meg Plona, Gary Whidden

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the final Cuyahoga River fire came to the Brecksville Dam Friday as part of the X-tinguish Torch Fest.

“We have gathered to celebrate the river, and the river is rising to celebrate the occasion, right?” Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Craig Kenkel asked.

A photo of Brecksville Dam

Officials at Cuyahoga Valley National Park are preparing for this week’s 50th anniversary of the final Cuyahoga River fire.

The “X-tinguish Torch Fest” will symbolically bring a torch down the river on Friday.

The national park’s Maureen Finnerty says they’ve been working for several years on ways to focus people on the rebirth of the Cuyahoga since 1969.  And that includes having the river designated by the state as a Water Trail.

photo of Tim Donovan

The 30th annual RiverSweep is happening Saturday morning in Cleveland, along the Cuyahoga River.

Volunteers are invited to help collect trash, old tires and other refuse that litters the river bank. They’ll also be painting over graffiti in the area.


A new Cleveland City Council subcommittee is meeting for the first time today, and its focus is to figure out how to improve Lake Erie’s water quality.

Cuyahoga River dredging
Port of Cleveland

Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, March 19: