Big Darby Creek
May - 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 - 2011



Starting Point

Eleven or Twelve years ago, Tony and some friends tried to paddle the Big Darby Creek. It was the start of a drought year in central Ohio and the creek was very low. Starting in Plain City and hoping to finish in Circleville, the friends took off. At the end of day one, there were some very tired people after walking, dragging and cursing at canoes that could not float the shallow creek. After day two, the group aborted the adventure. Tony was now determined to accomplish the mission that he failed on years ago.

After months of planning, Tony met up with fellow OHCRA member Tom, on a Wednesday evening, at the Bill Moose Gun Club in Darbyville. That was to be the "base camp" for other members arriving for the weekend. Ohio had a very cool, rainy spring but that day it was hot. Around 85 degrees and humid. Both Tom and Tony live further north and mosquitoes have not ventured out for the season. Down at Darbyville they were out in full force. Very hungry critters they were. A campfire was used for the smoking properties it supplies but even that didn't keep the mosquitoes at bay. After a while, it was off to the tents for relief.

Thursday morning they were up around seven but not in any hurry. It was to be a relaxing four-day paddle and seeing the high swift water, they just let nature dictate their pace. The schedule was to drive one vehicle upstream to Plain City, then canoe down to Circleville, carrying all of their gear and water for four days. At the intersection of St. Rt. 42 and St. Rt. 736, there is a roadside park that has a great launch area for canoes. Thanks to Steve Hilbert, Plain City, Village Administrator, permission was secured at a local factory across the street to leave a vehicle for the 4 days.

At 10:50 am, the two adventurers shoved off into the rain swollen and very fast Darby. The USGS stream gauge information showed 4.72 feet and the week before, it was over 10 feet. Their goal was 13.7 miles and with a 3 mph current, all they had to do was keep the watercraft straight. They brought along fishing gear and soon it came out. Have you ever tried to fish from a canoe drifting 3 mph and not staying headed in one direction? It was a challenge. Tony caught the first and only fish of the day. Both dudes caught lots of snags and even more snags. Lures were disappearing at an alarming rate. It was very hot again that day and the sun shone brightly. Shirts came off and sunscreen went on. There were animals out also enjoying the seldom seen sun. Six deer just laid and watched as the canoes drifted by. There were also numerous squirrels, ducks, groundhogs, paint turtles, one raccoon, one snapping turtle and those dam honking geese. Birds darted here and there. Chickadees, herons, vultures, and of course those dam honking geese. You could see where the water had been much higher and trash littered the shore. Tony saw an old milk can, in perfect condition save for the rusted exterior. Always wanting one, he put the 25-30 pound hunk of metal in his canoe, completely filling the available free space and carried it the rest of the trip. Determined or nuts? Around 5:00 pm, they arrived at their first campsite.

Camp Ken-Jocket

They were granted permission to stay at Girl Scout Camp, Ken-Jockety. The tents were set up in a grassy area on a little hill off the river. At the bottom of the hill, between the river and the tents, was a picnic table. Perfect for cooking and sitting on. After supper (each cooking independently), the guys walked around the camp scoping out the latrines and a fire ring. Not another soul did they see at the camp. The Girl Scout Camp has been around for years and the cabins, mess hall and other building looked like the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built them. Great stone work in the fireplaces and chimneys. They built a fire in one of the fire rings and let the flickering flames mesmerize them until time to walk back to the tents. The mosquitoes were again attacking with a vengeance and even after sundown, it was still very warm. Both brought winter sleeping bags and had to sleep on top of them or sweat all night long.

Friday May 13th, Unlucky or not? Both campers were awakened in the night while the police tried to pull someone over. At 2:30am, the sirens just blared off in the distance. By 7:30am, hot morning drinks were enjoyed and they hit the water by 9:20am. Still no rain on the trip although their spouses reported heavy rain and thundershowers up north. Upon launching his canoe, Tony paddled upstream a few yards to an island and fished the calmer waters. Another nice sized bass was caught and released. After that, it was all down hill in the fishing department. Did they say how hard it is to fish from a canoe floating at 3mph? Lures were again lost but at one point, Tom did finally catch a fish or more of a minnow. Because of the snagging problems, Tom put a red and white bobber on his line and even then, he got snagged. As soon as he put his pole down and picked up his paddle to turn around, his fishing pole leaped out of his canoe. Or more like his canoe left his pole. With the bobber only being submerged about 10 inches, they could see it well enough to grab the line and get the pole back in the canoe, but only after fighting the swift current. The only obstacle of the whole trip was on day two. Darby Dan Farms, an old horse farm, has a concrete low head dam on their property. Access for portaging was well maintained with the portage only being around 50 yards.

They had a scheduled camping spot where Trapper Johns Canoe Livery has a take out, close to Interstate 71. They had to stop at Trapper Johns main store to pay $7.00 each to camp and while there, they had a nice, cold, ice cream bar. The day was very warm with intermittent clouds. Good sunburn weather. From the store to the campsite, it was only a four mile paddle. A lady named Sara from Dallas Texas, who is an engineering student at Ohio State, joined them. She was kkkayaking and at the take out, she capsized. The current was really moving in that spot and the kkkayak got wedged against a tree. Sara got free but could not get the kkkayak dislodged due to the current. Tony used his throw rope and she secured it around her, grabbed the end of the kkkayak and with help from the rope, got to shore. She was very grateful for the help. The force of moving water should never be underestimated.

Gear Spread Out

The OHCRA members had to carry all their gear from the landing to a camping spot of maybe 75 yards away. Trapper Johns had a decent business for a Friday and they didn't want to be in the way. Total mileage for the day was 14.9 miles for a two-day total of 28.6 miles. After setting up camp, Jason from Trapper Johns, came by on his way home and offered them a ride to the drive thru. Tom left with him and returned a short time later with cold drinks. So good. OHCRA member Lance soon joined the group and then it was a trio. His GPS didn't recognize all the roads in the area and he couldn't find the campground without help. That is one reason many of the club members still use paper maps. The campground was very loud with traffic from the interstate. Semi truckers seem louder when crossing bridges and they make great alarm clocks.

After a great campfire and cold drinks, it was tent time. It was still really warm for a May evening and there was an 80% chance of rain overnight but the three awoke to a dry morning. Saturday, they broke camp and finalized the plans for the 13.5-mile paddle down to the Bill Moose Gun Club. They waited until 9:05am to see if any other OHCRA members were coming to paddle. No one came. They launched into the still swift water. Tom and Tony both got fishing poles out, made one cast and put them away. It was a paddling day. In fact, they made the 13.5 miles in a little over three hours on that Indian Highway, averaging 4.6 mph. It started to sprinkle at one point so the rain jackets were brought out. As soon as they were put on, it stopped raining. What great weather for a canoe trip.

Arriving at camp, gear was unloaded and the shuttle began. Toms' car was still at Bill Moose so he took Lance up to his vehicle at Trapper Johns. Since they finished paddling so early it was on to Plain City where Tony got his car. From Bill Moose to Plain City it's 35 miles by road but 42.1 by river. When everyone was back at camp Ted and Connie stopped to visit. Teds' new knees were working great. A few more sprinkles threatened so tarps were hastily rigged. Connie had a 20' x 30' tarp and it worked well after lots of engineering input from everyone. After a couple hour visit it was back to Indiana for Ted and Connie. They didn't even stay for the potluck. Tom went to Circleville to attend church services and when he got back, the potluck started. The monthly theme was dried or dehydrated food. Food that a person could carry on an extended trip and not spoil. Lance had Ramen noodles with dried King Oyster mushrooms, dried beef and brown gravy. Tom had dried pork and vegetables with long grain rice and Tony had homemade beef stroganoff that was home dried. After clean up, the three battled mosquitoes around a campfire, until a brief ten minute rain shower chased them into their tents.

Sunday morning was the coolest morning of the whole trip. The overcast skies again threatened rain. Lance was not paddling but graciously helped shuttle both Toms and Tonys vehicles to Circleville. Back at camp goodbyes were said to Lance, then the last leg of the trip commenced. Since both guys now had their vehicles at the ending point, their gear was stored in them. Traveling with empty canoes sure was different. Boats respond quicker when not completely loaded. That was good as the lower section of the Darby has more curves and "S" turns than the upper and the water was also faster there. 4.5 to 5 mph with one set of rapids surging up to 8 mph. No fishing poles slowed them that day. The 14-mile trip was completed in 3 hours with the last 6 miles being the only time that raincoats were really needed.


4 days and 56 miles later, in a steady drizzle, Tony finally realized his goal of paddling the main section of the Big Darby Creek. The water levels they encountered, especially on the lower section of the Darby, isn't for the inexperienced. The Ohio Historical Canoe Route Association Inc. is a club where you can interact with people who share in the love of canoeing. Until the next outing.......

View All Pictures From the Big Darby Creek