Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve

I’ve written before about walking along Big Darby Creek, which runs through two of the marvelous Metropolitan Parks here in central Ohio.  Big Darby Creek is an Ohio treasure.

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(click images to enlarge)

Big Darby Creek is nationally recognized as one of the last healthy streams in the Midwest. It is one of the few places where man and nature have managed to coexist in relative harmony, to the benefit of both. Today this “ribbon of green” flows through a mostly rural setting, providing residents with welcome beauty, open space and wildlife. It also:

Consists of 245 miles of free flowing streams that stretches through 7 counties in central Ohio

Has received National and State Scenic River designations

Provides habitat for an abundance of wildlife, including 36 species of rare and endangered fish and mussels

The Nature Conservancy, a fine organization that buys up land to preserve it (I’m a member) has created the Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve on the land where this creek begins.  I headed there one fine late May day, taking pictures of course!

I drove up to Logan County, consisting mainly of farmland and small towns.

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Along the way, Big Darby Creek narrowed as I got closer to its source

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On the road, a Turkey Vulture ate some roadkill

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The nature preserve was by the small town of Middleburg, across from a curious horse in a field

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The 800-acre Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve encompasses a mixture of wetlands and streamside forests.  Here, humble coldwater springs and streams emerge, forming the nourishing capillaries that are the lifeblood of Big Darby Creek’s permanent flow downstream.

These headwaters are fed by a complex of underground seeps, which contribute millions of gallons of clean, cold water to tributary streams of nearby Big Darby Creek.

These headwater streams, and the floodplains, forests and wetlands around them, are important not only for their influence on water quality and hydrology in the Big Darby, but also because they provide important habitat for plants and animals.

But this natural treasure faces many threats, including pollution from nearby development, as well as man-made changes to natural stream flows and habitat destruction.

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The path started off going through woodland

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This Acadian Flycatcher sang its brief song from a branch in the woods

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Little trickles like this are fed by underground springs, adding up to Big Darby Creek

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Patches of wetlands dotted the area

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A snake suns itself on a branch over the water- it sensibly ignored my interruption of its nap

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Prairie-like fields were on the far side of the woods, with grass paths

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Nesting Field Sparrows scolded me vigorously, even with beaks full of food for their young

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I worried I’d pick up ticks but I found none, though this slug hitchhiked a ride on my shoe

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Fields were lined with bands of woods that lined little streams that flowed together to form the creek

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Small foot-bridges allowed me to walk over the streams

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At the end of the trail, a boardwalk led out to an observation platform

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Here is the modest start of Big Darby Creek, from spring water welling up out of the ground

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I knew the benefactor of the park, Gary Jainshig- he was my middle school science teacher!

I had no idea that he had left his life savings to the Nature Conservancy- he passed away 3 years ago, sadly

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As I read the information signs, a Yellow Warbler sang nearby

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There was plenty of late spring wildflowers in the park- how many can you name?

You can find them all and more in my post May Wildflowers in Ohio

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All good things must come to an end.  It was very instructive seeing where mighty waterways come from.  I’ll keep an eye on improvements made to the preserve!