Although a small park, 167-acre Nelson-Kennedy Ledges provides a thrilling experience to visitors with its rugged cliffs and diverse plant life typical of a more northern climate. A day-use park, Nelson-Kennedy Ledges is popular for picnicking and hiking.
This area was of vital importance to the Indian tribes. The Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Seneca, Mohawk, and Cajuga tribes were among those said to have lived at Nelson Ledges.
The park lies near one of the highest points of the state and is close to the watershed divide between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. Several major foot trails and canoe routes passed through this vicinity. This area became an important trade center for both pioneers and Indians.
The area developed into an important agricultural and dairy center. Cheesemaking was prominent and began nearly as soon as the first settlers arrived. By 1834, northeast Ohio cheese controlled the southern markets. Eventually, canal and rail transportation increased the area's importance.
The town of Hiram, west of the park, is home to Hiram College where James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, was educated. At the age of 26, he was chosen president of the college. The college was opened in 1851 as the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, received its charter in 1867, and was rebuilt and enlarged in 1886.
The Nelson-Kennedy region has always been a popular vacation spot and eventually came under state protection. In 1940, the state purchased land at Nelson Ledges, and in 1948, it bought 101 acres of the area known as Kennedy Ledges. The state of Ohio created Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in 1949 to preserve the area for future generations of Ohioans to enjoy.
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