John Bryan (SW)
3790 State Route 370
Yellow Springs, OH 45387
Contact & Mailing Address
Buck Creek State Park
1901 Buck Creek Lane
Springfield, OH 45502-8801
Buck Creek Park Office
Reservations for Camping & Shelters
John Bryan is the most scenic state park in western Ohio. The 752-acre park contains a remarkable limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River which is designated as a state and national scenic river. A portion of the gorge itself is designated as a national natural landmark.
Nature of the Area
Much of the history of John Bryan State Park is “written in the rocks” of the Little Miami River gorge. Entering the area at Clifton, at 980 feet above sea level, the Little Miami drops 130 feet through layer upon layer of bedrock. Each layer has a story to tell of times when the area was covered by warm, shallow seas or was a part of a muddy river delta or was scoured by tons of slow-moving glacial ice. Each layer has its own characteristics as well. Some of the shale layers are easily worn away by the forces of erosion, causing undercutting in the cliff face. The more erosion-resistant dolomite or limestone rocks above are weakened by this undercutting and large “slump blocks” fall away, creating unusual rock formations including Steamboat Rock. Springs feeding small waterfalls and cascades are common.
The glaciers did not only affect the land forms, they also had an effect on the vegetation found here. As the last glacier retreated and the climate warmed, the cool shaded recesses of the gorge valley provided a suitable habitat for several Canadian plant species: Canada yew, redberry elder, mountain maple, arborvitae and even a few hemlocks.
More than 100 different trees and shrubs have been identified in the park. More than 340 species of wildflowers grow wild here. Snow trillium, Virginia bluebells, bellworts, wild ginger, Dutchman’s breeches, Jack-in-the-pulpit and wild columbines are only a few to be seen in the park. The dominating trees are oaks and maples, but large numbers of sycamores and cottonwoods can be found along the river. Wildlife is also abundant in the park. For instance, more than 90 different varieties of birds live in or visit the park area during the year. To fully appreciate the beauty of John Bryan, one needs to experience it during all four seasons.
History of the Area
Some of the first people to experience the area’s beauty were the Moundbuilders, and later, the Shawnee Indians. Just five miles south of Yellow Springs, approximately where the town of Oldtown is now, was the site of Old Chillicothe, one of the leading Shawnee settlements in Ohio. The great Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh, was a frequent visitor here and to the nearby James Galloway House, which has been kept intact by the Greene County Historical Society.
This portion of the Little Miami River was a vital, economical source of power for the early settlers in the 1800s. The Cincinnati-Pittsburgh stagecoach road served the area and several enterprising settlers began establishing water-powered industries in the gorge. The town of Clifton prospered from the textile mill, grist mills and sawmills located there.
By the late 1800s, most of the industrial activity in the area ceased • Water was no longer an economical source of power and many mills were abandoned. However, one of the grist mills built in 1869 is still in operation. Located in the village of Clifton, the Clifton Mill is open to visitors.
The park takes its name from an ambitious businessman who was responsible for the preservation of much of the area as a state preserve. In 1896, Bryan purchased 335 acres along the gorge and called these acres, “Riverside Farm”.
John Bryan had a great respect for the natural world. In 1918, he bequeathed Riverside Farm to the state of Ohio, “…to be cultivated by the state as a forestry, botanic and wildlife reserve park and experiment station,” which would bear his name. In May of 1925, John Bryan’s land became one of the state’s first forest parks. In 1949, John Bryan State Park was transferred to the newly created ODNR Division of Parks and Recreation. John Bryan State Park and the adjoining Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve overlook the beautiful Little Miami River gorge that has been designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
- 10 electric sites
- 50 non-electric sites
- Most campsites are partially shaded and are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, latrines, drinking water and a dump station
- Pets are permitted on any site
- A 100-person group camp area is available for organized groups on a reservation basis
- Two adirondack shelters are available in the group camp area
- Download the Campground map
- Day-use lodge is available for rentals from April 1 through October 31 each year
- Equipped with two fireplaces, restroom facilities, large screened-in porch and kitchen with stove, refrigerator and a 50-cup coffee maker
- Day-use lodge can be reserved online or by calling 866-644-6727
- 9 Hiking trails
- Horace Mann Trail • 0.2 Miles
- Camp Trail • 1 Mile • 150 yds Handicap Accessible
- Poplar Trail • 0.1 Miles
- South Gorge Trail • 1.2 Miles
- North Rim Trail • 2 Miles
- John L. Rich Trail • 1.3 Miles
- Orton Memorial Trail • 0.4 Miles • 100 yds Handicap Accessible
- Pitt-Cinci Stage Coach Trail • 1.3 Miles • 100 yds Handicap Accessible
- Swimming Pool Road Trail • 0.2 Miles • 75 yds Handicap Accessible
- 2 hiking trails also allow bicycles
- Arboretum Trail • 1.2 Mles Handicap Accessible
- Power Line Loop • 1.5 Miles
- Mountain bikes are permitted on 9.7 miles of multi-use trail (see the map) • Read more about mountain biking at the park
- Portions of many trails are wheelchair accessible with assistance to some degree
- Trails are four to five feet in width and have packed earth or crushed stone base
- The Little Miami River is excellent for canoeing
- A launch area near the park on Jacoby Road provides access to this scenic river
- As the river twists and bends, visitors will discover steep rock cliffs, towering sycamores and many historic sites along the way
- Boating laws and information
- The Little Miami River provides excellent stream fishing opportunities for anglers
- Smallmouth bass, rock bass and panfish are in abundance
- Valid Ohio fishing license is required
- Fishing is prohibited in the Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve
- COMING SOON! 18-hole disc golf course
- 4 picnic areas: Upper, Lower, Wingo and Orton
- All areas have tables, grills and latrines • Some areas also have drinking water
Winter Recreation (conditions permitting)
- Cross country skiing
- Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve is located adjacent to the park • The preserve contains many outstanding geological and botanical features for visitors to enjoy
- Within a short distance are the Blue Jacket Outdoor Drama, Clifton Mill, the Air Force Museum and the Galloway Cabin in Xenia
- Glen Helen Nature Preserve, Buck Creek State Park and Caesar Creek State Park are also nearby
- There is a 10-mile bikeway from Xenia to Yellow Springs
- The Little Miami State Park is a narrow corridor along the Little Miami River
- Spring Valley Wildlife Area operated by the ODNR Division of Wildlife offers hunting and fishing opportunities for sportsmen and is also known as one of the best birdwatching areas in southwestern Ohio
- For more information on area attractions, visit
- Green County Convention and Visitors Bureau website or call 800-733-9109
- Ohio Tourism Division website or call 800-BUCKEYE