Large watersheds are areas that separate waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or oceans. Cuyahoga County is intersected by three major river watersheds: The Rocky River, Cuyahoga River, and Chagrin River watersheds.

In addition, much of Cuyahoga County drains directly to the shores of Lake Erie. Within those major watersheds are 32 smaller subwatersheds, ranging in size from 200 acres to more than 20,000 acres. Although they follow the natural contours of their respective drainage areas (as opposed to local community boundaries), these subwatersheds are characterized by varying degrees of urbanization and degradation. In a few subwatersheds, there is no significant above-ground drainage, while others benefit from extensive protection in the form of parks and conservation easements.

These subwatersheds are typically monitored and managed by local watershed stewardship groups, such as Big Creek Connects or Friends of Euclid Creek. Their Watershed Action Plans are key to a cleaner Lake Erie.

Existing and Potential Tree Canopy

Among the 32 subwatersheds, 15 exceeded the County average of 34.7% tree canopy. Those with the lowest canopy are within the most urbanized areas within and adjacent to downtown Cleveland, including several Lake Erie and Cuyahoga River drainage areas. Those that are below the County tree canopy average are typified by areas with high degrees of imperviousness and areas “not suitable for

Many subwatersheds with low to moderate canopy levels can be encouraged to realize higher canopy coverage by their availability of “Vegetated Area”, including Rocky River West Branch, Abrams Creek, Tinkers Creek, Euclid Creek, and Mill Creek.

Existing Tree Canopy

Possible Tree Canopy

Components of Tree Canopy

Change, 2011-2017

Consistent with findings for other geographies, very few subwatersheds showed any substantial gain in tree canopy from 2011 to 2017. Only the Chagrin River Aurora Branch and the Lake Erie Tributaries West of Chagrin River had gains above 4%.

Losses exceeding 10% of the 2011 canopy occurred in largely western subwatersheds: Lake Erie West Tributaries, Doan Brook, Baldwin Creek, and the Lake Erie Tributaries East of Black River.

Tree Canopy Data by Watershed

Existing Tree CanopyPossible Planting Area (Vegetated)Possible Planting Area (Impervious)Not SuitableChange
Abrams Creek6,4771,32520%2,44238%1,42422%1,28720%-113-8%
Baldwin Creek6,3402,16534%2,58241%73212%86214%-277-11%
Big Creek23,9845,09921%7,70932%5,53523%5,64024%-402-7%
Brandywine Creek2145425%9846%3717%2411%-5-9%
Chagrin River Aurora
Chagrin River Main Branch27,90215,42055%8,36130%1,9427%2,1798%-1,052-6%
Chagrin River Upper Main
Branch / Beaver Creek
Chippewa Creek11,3275,24746%3,97735%1,0379%1,0669%-486-8%
Cuyahoga Navigation
Channel / Morganna / Burke Br
Cuyahoga River / Cuyahoga
Valley National Park
Cuyahoga River Navigation
Cuyahoga River Navigation
Channel / Kingsbury Run
Doan Brook6,2342,26636%1,69227%99416%1,28321%-323-12%
Dugway / Nine Mile /
Green Creeks
Euclid Creek13,2594,28132%4,87837%1,86614%2,23417%-315-7%
French Creek3,9221,87948%1,36635%2777%40110%322%
Furnace Run1,87166536%80043%22012%18610%-65-9%
Lake Erie East
Lake Erie Tributaries
East of Black River
Lake Erie Tributaries
West of Chagrin River
Lake Erie West Tribs
(Cahoon, Sperry Creeks)
Lake Erie West
Mill Creek12,3962,67322%4,43436%2,71522%2,57321%-147-5%
Plum Creek1,14150444%37533%11510%14713%-14-3%
Pond Brook1,11251046%47242%605%706%-34-6%
Porter Creek4,1471,67040%1,31232%51512%64916%60%
Rocky River East Branch20,5239,05544%7,30936%1,9339%2,22711%-744-8%
Rocky River Main Stem9,5153,04732%3,00532%1,58817%1,87520%-308-9%
Rocky River West Branch15,7605,38234%6,30940%1,79711%2,27214%-330-6%
Tinkers Creek24,6007,96632%9,21437%3,83616%3,58415%-462-5%
West Creek12,1003,25927%4,25335%2,31419%2,27319%-171-5%
Willow Creek26417165%8331%42%62%-5-3%