Paddle Ohio’s Scenic Big Darby Creek

Float this clean and pristine waterway on the western outskirts of Columbus.

The Big Darby Creek is a state- and national-designated Scenic river, and for good reason: Find yourself paddling above clear water and under a canopy of water-loving trees like silver maple and sycamore. Look for bald eagles and ospreys overhead and spring flowers like phlox and Virginia bluebell along the riverbanks. 

Just as important, the Big Darby is a clean, healthy creek. In fact, this 84-mile creek just southwest of Columbus is possibly the cleanest creek in the Midwest. It’s home to some 100 species of fish and 44 freshwater mussel species, including a number of each that are rare and endangered. Look down as you paddle for the easy-to-see fish and mussels, and look ahead for snapping turtles sunning themselves on logs. 

The general paddling season on the Big Darby is Memorial Day through Labor Day, optimally Memorial Day to mid-July for enough water in this free-flowing creek to support a float. Though the Big Darby is a Class I river, high water can be dangerous—call ahead to Trapper John’s Canoe Livery to get an assessment of the water level before you head out in order to avoid hazards such as downed trees or other so-called “strainers.” 

DIY Route: Alkire Road to Osprey Lake

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is home to convenient (and free) put-in/takeout spots, so use these to your advantage. They are identified on the park map. Launch on the east, river-left side at Alkire Road (there's a parking lot with a short trail to the river's edge) and float south about 5 miles to the takeout (river-right) at Osprey Lake. Keep an eye out for those ospreys plus blue herons, and enjoy this meandering, undeveloped stretch of river that’s entirely within the park boundaries. If you bring a rod, you can fish for bass as you float—largemouth, smallmouth and rock bass. It is day-use-only here (no camping); make sure to take out and return to your vehicle by dark, so you can leave the park before it closes. More info:

Livery Route: Trapper John’s to OH-762

Trapper John’s rents canoes and kayaks and provides shuttles for a number of route options on the upper and lower Big Darby. The Lower Trip launches right at Trapper John’s and floats you to the bridge at state Route 762, where the outfitter will pick you up two to three hours later ($25-$28 per adult, $5-$30 per child). Call or check Trapper John’s Instagram feed to learn about when ‘Darby at Dusk’ trips are offered—go on a night float, and you may hear one of the many owls that call this riparian area home. 

Another good option is to buy a Trapper John’s season pass. The pass for unlimited shuttles with your own boat is $100, and an unlimited rental pass (boat and shuttle) is $165. More info:

Getting There

Using GPS or a navigation app, plug in 8465 Alkire Road to find the Alkire Road put-in. It’s 6 miles southwest of Interstate 270 (Take Exit 5 and continue on Georgesville Road for just over 6 miles).

Refresh & Refuel

Try the mussels al diablo tapas at Sidebar Columbus—the bar and grill has outstanding seafood, meat and vegetarian options plus a wine and cocktail menu. Reservations recommended, closed Sundays. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.