The Burning River

Cleveland Script sign on the Burning River

This weekend we remember the 50 year anniversary of the “Burning River” here in Cleveland. on June 22, 1969 the river caught on fire. This fire would make national news in Time magazine and bring a lot of negative publicity to the city. We would earn the nick name the Burning River City.

Of course Cleveland was not the only city with a polluted river but Cleveland’s issues had been going on for over 100 years prior to this fire. This fire was the thirteen fire! The first was in 1868. These fires could be pretty bad and costly, burning the docks, warehouses and bridges along the river.

Cleveland finally took action in 1969 under the leadership of mayor Carl Stokes and began the efforts to save the river. Today the Cuyahoga river is a much better place. If you walk along the Flats you’ll see people rowing and sailing on the river, cruise ships carrying people along showing off the city and because it is a working river, huge ships on it. This year the Ohio EPA said for the first time it was safe to eat the fish out of the river.

We have come along way over the past 50 years but still have work to do to continually improve the health of the river. Today that marker of the Burning River City is one of pride, showing how we have turned things around in Cleveland. Check out Cuyahoga50 for some of the events planned this weekend to commemorate the anniversary.

Learn more about Cleveland’s history on a walking tour of downtown with us. See our latest schedule and book your tour today at

Barge coming up the Cuyahoga River
The Cuyahoga River is still a working river.