The park contains numerous trails such as the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, the Buckeye Trail, the Cuyahoga Trail, and the Quarry Trail.
On the eastern border of the park is Canal Lock 28. Due to the low elevation here, it has the distinction of being the deepest lock of the 42 locks found between Cleveland and Akron. Lock 28 lifted its canal boats 17 feet high. The park derives its name from this unique lock.
History, Part I
The State of Ohio opened the first quarry in this area in 1825 to supply building stone to the new Ohio & Erie Canal being constructed north and south of Peninsula. The sandstone found here was graded as excellent and once word of that got out, commercial quarry operations came and opened up their own sites and began filling private orders. Soon stone was sent all over Ohio for new construction in its young cities in addition to the canal needs.
The sandstone eventually became known as Berea Sandstone, also commonly called Berea Grit. Named for the Ohio city northwest of Peninsula where a larger deposit of it was discovered years later. This sandstone would go on to become the most important single stratum in the entire geological column of Ohio. Its economic value above ground is great, but it is greater below. In its outcrops it is a source of the finest building stone and the best grindstone grit of the country, and when it dips beneath the surface it becomes the repository of invaluable supplies of petroleum, gas, and salt-water.
The Berea Sandstone was originally classified as belonging to Mississippian strata but most recently it is considered to be from the late Devonian period. It is a gray to buff colored stone which sparkles when the tiny sand grains reflect the sun. This sandstone formed approximately 330 million years ago as a result of wave action from the great inland sea back when Ohio was nearer the equatorial latitudes. The waves separated clay and silt from the larger sand grains, forming expansive beaches. Compressed over time, the Berea Sandstone layer stretches along Northeastern Ohio and into adjacent states.
History, Part II
The first blocks taken from the quarry were hand cut which drew lots of blood, sweat, and tears. Three man teams worked at cutting the stone out of the ground. One held a stone drill, basically a long iron drill bit. Two others would hit that drill, driving it deep into the rock with their sledge hammers. They would do this until a wide trench would be cut all around a single block. Then, a series of holes would be drilled in a straight line under a block and then the blasting powder would come out. The Blaster, a guy trained in explosives, would come over and insert blasting powder down deep inside those holes. A warning whistle would be blown to clear everyone out and then the powder would be detonated! KaBoom! Another crew would then come in and use giant iron wedges and long iron picks to work the rock up and out of its ancient home and onto a mule cart. Very labor intensive work, these guys I bet had arms like Popeye. The mules probably did too!
Once out, the sandstone needed to be ‘cured’, which means that its internal water or "sap" is dried out. Once that happens, the sandstone becomes impervious to water, salt, or chemicals, making it superior to other types of building stone. Using ropes, pulleys, and snatch blocks, the giant blocks (weighing tons) would then be loaded up on sturdy wagons pulled by mules & horses and shipped out to the customer’s worksite be it the canals or new buildings. Some of the stones would be kept a little longer at the quarry and be cut to customer specs. Scabbers, men using iron hand picks & other tools, worked the stone and prepped it so that the customer only had to put it into place it at the jobsite once it was delivered to them.
As years of cutting went on, finer grades of stone were exposed. The grains on these stones were more angular than rounded and this produced more valuable products such as pulp stones for papermaking, stones for sharpening scythes and mower knives, and grain milling stones. The unique quality of the sandstone found here was that as the outer surface grew dull with use, the worn particles would break off constantly exposing a fresh and sharp surface. The very best layers of this sandstone was saved for making excellent grindstones which required a smooth and even texture, neither too soft nor too hard. These layers also had to be completely free from cracks, flaws, foreign objects, or hard spots.
Quarrying went on for the next 40 years with little interruption, business was good. In the 1870’s, the steam locomotive engine came to the valley and soon became the preferred way to ship stone from the quarry. The train was quicker to get the stone to the customers and at relatively the same cost as the canals and horse drawn carts. Railroad tracks and loading docks were laid all over the quarry converting the daily handling and the outbound shipping process quick and efficient. Iron towers, called derricks, were erected along the tracks and stood up to 60 feet tall. They were anchored to nearby trees with guy wires up to 300 feet long. These massive towers enabled just one man to handle several tons of stone with little effort and load up the trains quickly. The quarry even had their very own steam engine, nicknamed Dinky.
A decade later, the 1880’s, brought great advances in quarrying. Steam powered tools such as drills, cutters, and channelers came to Peninsula and greatly decreased the time it took to cut the stone out and increased the quarry output. With this greater output, the discovery of the finer grade of stone, and the ease of shipping it via train to anywhere, the quarries here soon received global attention. They soon were shipping stone around the world like Pulp stones to paper plants in Japan and hullers & pearlers to wheat growers in Russia and Germany.
The quarries grew to be large self-supporting operations. Buildings were constructed on site and produced what ever was needed to keep the rock cutting going. There were Iron Works full of blacksmiths, making and repairing the many iron tools needed. Sawmills were erected to cut and fabricate wood for the handling and shipping. Maintenance shops repaired steam machinery to keep them running. If something broke down in the quarry, they fixed it. If they needed something, they made it.
Ownership of the quarries has changed hands many times over the years. Some notable owners have included early canal engineer Richard Howe, canal boat builder Lawson Waterman and the “Cereal Magnate of Akron”, Ferdinand Schumacher. Schumacher bought a portion of the quarry in 1879 because he needed the excellent sandstone for his mill stones, which were used to remove the outer hulls of oats processed at Akron's American Cereal Works, later known as Quaker Oats. Ferdinand’s quarry was the South Quarry, also known as Shumacher’s quarry. The Giant Steps you will be exploring today are the remains of his quarry.
By the early 1920’s, the quarry drastically dropped in production as hard times hit across the U.S.. The last known cut of stone was taken from the quarry in the 1930s when the Federal Civilian Conservation Corps excavated some stone and used it to construct several city park pavilions in the region.
In 1934, Cleveland Quarries Co. transferred ownership of the idle quarry over to the Akron Metropolitan Parks, the pre-cursor to SCMP. Today, Deep Lock Quarry is a 73 acre park with the visible remains of three abandoned quarry sites (North, State, and the South quarries). Visible remains include the South quarry wall (the Giant Steps) with it’s smooth steam channel cut face, the old railroad bed, now converted into the Quarry hiking trail, and scattered derrick bases, which were laid deep into the ground, can be found all over.
You adventure begins at the Deep Lock Quarry Park parking lot. Bring a GPS, a Tape measure and a Camera. All logging requirements can be found as you hike the Quarry Trail north to the South Quarry’s Giant Steps.
Total hike is just a little over 1.5 miles roundtrip and I would plan on two hours to complete the cache. There are several spots along the Quarry Trail giving you the opportunity to explore quarry relics.
Leave No Trace. Remember to stay on the trails per SCMP rules. No Bushwhacking. Do not disturb any relics found here. Do not take anything out of this park except for memories and pictures.
Many thanks to the Summit County Metro Parks for allowing this very First Earthcache in their parks.