A float down Big Darby Creek is the perfect pick-me-up

Canoeists on Big Darby Creek. (Cheryl Blair)

If you’d like a beautiful, tranquil, challenging canoe or kayak float without leaving Franklin County then Big Darby Creek is for you. This dedicated National Scenic River is not only a biological gem it’s also an opportunity for a day of visual candy. Nature at its best is revealed as you float down the creek, making twisting turns and bouncing through riffled waters. Then there are times when you can just place your paddle down and enjoy the flat water as you slowly slip southward.

Different species of turtles can be seen sunning themselves on the rocks and logs that line banks of the creek in many areas. Beaver cuttings show us that the creature has been busy overnight. Bird song abounds as over 100 different species of songsters nest throughout the valley. Owls are not an uncommon sight as they roost in a large tree next to the water. They’ll even open an eye and watch as you paddle by. And of course, you’ll see snakes swimming or basking in the sun. But don’t worry about them—there hasn’t been a venomous snake found in Central Ohio in over 150 years.

Kayakers enjoy a float down Big Darby Creek. (Annette Boose)

Timing and judgment is crucial when you make plans to float this wonderful waterway. During May and June the creek can offer the perfect water level for your adventure, but it can also turn into a raging river if the rains storm upon us. Flood waters are extremely dangerous and should be left alone. Don’t even consider chancing a float with these kinds of conditions. The Darby watershed has an area of 540 square miles and drains quickly. Give the flooded creek a few days and it will be back to safe levels.

There are canoe access point on Big Darby Creek in both Battelle Darby Creek and Prairie Oaks Metro parks. View the park maps here and find the canoe icon to locate the canoe access points:
BATTELLE DARBY CREEK MAP
PRAIRIE OAKS MAP

Metro Parks is offering a special shuttle day on June 10. If you begin your float at the Prairie Oaks upper Darby canoe access we will be glad to shuttle you back there from a takeout point about two miles south at Beaver Lake. Just arrive at Beaver Lake between 2 and 4pm and we’ll take you and your boat back to your car. If you don’t have a canoe or kayak and would like to float the stream and enjoy the beauty of this scenic river you may want to rent a boat. There is a canoe livery on Big Darby Creek, located in the village of Darbydale. Check them out online: Trapper John’s Canoe Livery.

I’ve spent many many hours floating Big Darby Creek. On every trip I see something new, something that will stand out and catch my eye and impress upon me how important this watershed is. Several threatened and endangered species call this waterway home. Remember on your float to watch, to listen and to appreciate this wonderful, unique habitat that we are so lucky to have in Central Ohio. Big Darby Creek is a gem that shines on us daily.

TIM TAYLOR
Naturalist Battelle Darby Creek