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Big Darby Creek in Ohio

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

This unplanned day trip came about on a spontaneous decision after mom and dad left from our Mothers Day brunch. After we filled our bellies, like Thanksgiving Day, with sausage gravy, homemade biscuits, apple pie pancakes, a couple of fried eggs, fresh pineapple, strawberries and blueberries, we figured we better get out and burn some calories. A nap sounded pretty good too, but a last minute plan to do a quick 5 mile trip on Big Darby Creek really hit the spot.

Fortunately, we live close enough that we can shuttle a pick up vehicle, go to the drop off and slide in the water within 30 minutes. We left in such a hurry that we forgot tie down straps for the pick up vehicle but made due by way of shuttling straps in the kayak. We put in at the bridge in Unionville Center and took out at the bridge on route 42 and route 736.

The water level that day was too low for canoes, but just enough for our Dagger Medieval and Dagger GT 7.5 kayaks. We still rubbed the rocks a few times. The stream flow at Darbyville read just over 200 cfs, but we were a good 30 miles upstream and I would guess we were barely 100 cfs. Regardless of the low flow, the tiny stream flowed well through the narrow spots, barely more than the width of our kayaks, and in the few flat sections we coasted along well with minimal effort. The twists and turns were plentiful around several marsh-like features and sharp turns at massive tree roots. It really did require quite a bit of maneuverability and water reading to find the deepest channel through the riffles and river grass. Speaking of which, if you dont get a chance to paddle this before mid June, the river grass will choke out most of the stream, then a high water run is your only hope. Even then, I would advise exercising caution at high water, due to the tight confines of the river with downed trees and sharp turns into nasty strainers. All in all, from a paddling standpoint, this tiny stream was a real pleasure to cut and move our way through the obstacles.

I have not been on this stretch of the river in about 10 years and forgot just how pretty and remote that it is. It was Michelles first time on The Big Darby and soon became her favorite paddling destination that is close to home. I think me too! We felt like we were in some remote nature sanctuary. Houses and civilization are far and few between. Take a look on a Union County map and you will see how far from civilization you really are in that stretch. The wildlife was unbelievable. We saw blue herons, mallard ducks, with chicks, geese, red tail hawks and multiple other bird species. We saw crawl fish, carp, spotted bass, sauger, and even a longnose gar fish. That was pretty cool. Later in the trip we rounded a small bend and there was a deer standing in the stream lapping water. Just then a blue heron lifted off right in front of the deer. The deer then looked up at us and gracefully walked off as if we were no threat, just a bother in her water break.

Three hours and 5 miles later we washed up on the bank, just upstream from the route 42 bridge, with wet butts and cold toes. The quick tree-turn maneuvers were just enough to put a bit of splash in our seats, since we didnt feel the need for spray skirts that day, maybe next time. We will definitely make time to paddle this little hidden gem again soon.


A port-a-potty at the park.




Take State Route 736 from Plain City or Marysville and turn west on Robinson Rd. and go to Unionville Center Rd. Go about 1/4 of a mile and you will be on bridge over Big Darby. There is no immediate place to park, so unload and caarry water craft down the bank and to the river. Then you can park on Middleburg-Plain City Rd. just up the hill. For the take out go back to Route 736 and go south to the park at the intersection of 736 and Route 42. You can park at the small roadside park.


Union County map

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location