Words by Matthew Merchant

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Photo by Briana Neal.

Franklin Mills Riveredge Park (and Brady’s Leap Park)

Kent, Portage County

For the deep-woods hikers, winter-sled enthusiasts and nature lovers.

In brief: Looking to get away from campus for a couple of hours? Looking for that nature fix but don’t want to travel far? This park is the perfect solution.

If you’re a student at Kent State main campus, chances are you’ve been to this park. Hidden in plain sight in downtown Kent, Franklin Mills Riveredge Park hugs the banks of the Cuyahoga River as it cuts through the city, creating a peaceful space for walking, biking, picnicking and relaxing.

Known for its beautiful waterfall and the Main Street Bridge, this park is the perfect place for anyone looking to get away for a few minutes (or hours) for some peace and quiet. Being directly in downtown Kent, you would not expect such a picturesque, natural setting; however, this park combines many historic aspects of the city with a landscape sculpted by nature.

The most accessible spot in this park is directly under the bridge downtown. From downtown, you’ll want to cross the Main Street Bridge. Just walking over the bridge will earn you views overlooking the Cuyahoga River and the old dam structure, recently reshaped into viewing platforms and a grassy knoll. Access to the stairs is across the bridge near the public library, and elevated wood walkways will take you in either of two directions: down a trail following the river or down to the waterfall.

I’d recommend heading down the trail first. There are some pretty cool spots hidden along the path, including views of an old silk mill with art sculpted into the back wall and the remains of old canal walls near Summit Street. If you are looking for some time in the river, watch for the paths along the riverbanks: One of them leads to an outcropping of stone practically in the middle of the river. This spot has great views looking upstream toward the waterfall.

At the end of this path is Summit Street and John Brown Tannery Park, which I won’t describe in this blog. Feel free to check it out, though. There is some great history with the site. Instead, I recommend taking the little-known path under the Route 59 underpass. Just to the left after you cross under the bridge is a path leading down to the riverbank. There, you will find the remains of the old canal walls. This is a nice quiet spot if you’d like to read, plus it’s far enough off the path to remain hidden from view.

Head back toward the waterfall and take the stairs to the right, leading down toward the waterfall. After walking all the way down the path, take a break and sit down on a bench or old quarry stone. This area has gone through a transformation recently and is now a beautiful spot to relax. Placards line the waterfall arch with unique tidbits of Kent history. Climb the stairs to a viewing platform overlooking the lagoon, explore the rocks along the riverbank, or just sprawl out on the grassy area in the sun.

If you take the trail under the bridge archway, you will end up following a fantastic bike path. This section of the park is filled with stunning views of the river as it rushes along, train tracks above and smooth stones below. The current mill dominates your views, looming above the city and the park from across the banks. When you get near Lake Street, the park becomes Brady’s Leap Park, named for a natural outcropping along the river. Read the placards along the path to learn about Kent’s history. If you’d like, take a bike and continue on along the Portage Hike and Bike Trail to Towner’s Woods Park.

Recommended Equipment:

  • Tennis shoes
  • Water
  • Bicycle

Directions from Kent:

    Take Route 59 (Main Street) to the West

Estimated travel time: 5 minutes (by car) / 10 to 15 minutes (on foot)