Upper Darby Canoe Access to Prairie Oaks Metropark
The Upper Darby Canoe Access is located off of Amity Road, a short way south from Scioto Darby. The access point has a fine gravel lot with parking for about 6 vehicles. A small, well maintained grassy area separates the lot from the creek. It has a wonderful old tree in the middle and honestly seems like a serene place to put a blanket down and relax with a book and a snack. Important to note: there are no restrooms at this access.
Only one other trip starting from this access was listed on this site prior to this description. The author of that trip description noted that they would recommend a water level of at least 3ft for this trip. That author took the Upper Darby Canoe access all the way down to Broad Street and the trip was 5 hours having to get out and walk approximately 10 times. The water level for their trip was around 2.3ft according to the darbyville station.
For our trip, the Darbyville Station listed a water level of 3.12ft. The prior author was correct, this water level allowed for passage down the creek without having to get out at all, although there were a few spots of rapids in which the bottom of the kayaks slightly scraped the rocks underneath. Just a bit higher level and it would have been perfect.
There were about 4-5 sections of probably class I rapids on this section of Big Darby Creek. A couple of these sections were very narrow and difficult to determine on approach whether they would be passable or not. Keeping to the right each time worked to get through. Left forks all looked to be impassable except for maybe one or two.
The route was very peaceful and current light. It was possible to easily paddle upstream most of the time, if necessary. Wildlife seen during our trip included lots of turtles and great herons, geese and ducks with goslings and ducklings, a cormorant, goldfinches, red winged black birds, cardinals, and blue jays. The sounds of roosters crowing could be heard from farms that line the east side of the creek. A few nice houses tucked back in the trees were visible with their docks peeking congenially along the sides of the creek.
About two thirds along the way, the creek passes under a bridge. This is Beach Road. After passing under, Beaver Lake will be just to the west of the creek. In years past, the metroparks have sponsored short paddles from the Upper Darby Canoe Access with portage at this point. Beaver Lake is another converted quarry just like the Darby Bend Lakes of the main Prairie Oaks park. This lake is a really nice place to paddle, with clear water through which several types of fish can be seen. In the evenings, there are a lot of fishers both in kayaks and along the banks of the creek.
At the end of the trip, a small yellow sign that says “Portage Ahead” will be visible in a tree on the east bank. At this point the creek is running next to Prairie Oaks. There will be another yellow sign, again on the east bank, signaling the actual portage spot. After taking out from the creek, the trail that runs around the big lake at the back of Prairie Oaks can be crossed and the kayaks can be put into the lake in order to paddle across to the parking lot. The Darby Bend Lakes are another peaceful place to paddle.
Overall this route is enjoyable, with some fun, easily navigable rapid sections, and plenty of nature and wildlife. The trip takes about 1.5-2 hours at a leisurely pace. For a longer trip, it’s possible to continue down the creek, as there are several portage locations further along. Several other trip listings describe sections of the creek down past Prairie Oaks.
- Trip Dates: 6/18/2022
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking
- Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
- Number of Portages: 1