It’s hot, but we’re all looking for outdoor activities to entertain our kids this summer. Want to fill a morning or afternoon? Go creeking in Columbus! Kids LOVE getting their feet wet, looking for bugs, crawdads, fish, and skipping stones.
There are places to explore creeks all over Columbus. But safety is important because water and kids can be dangerous.
Safety Tips for Creeking
Look for posted signs. If the signs say to stay out of the water, or take specific precautions, make sure you follow them
Consider recent rainfall. The amount of rainfall can determine whether a creek or river is safe for very dangerous. You should always consider recent rainfall. Water is usually higher during spring due to frequent rain.
Be careful about depth. Creeks can go from 3 inches of water, to 4 feet of water, very quickly. You should always stay right by your kids – especially young ones. Depth is usually more shallow on the edges, so steer clear of the middle if you are unsure.
Check the current. What looks like gentle running water can actually be a stronger current than you expect. Kids can be swept off their feet so much easier than adults. If you feel the water pulling at your legs, it’s probably too strong for them. Steer clear of currents, and always enter creeks above currents.
Wear shoes. Wearing strap on shoes, water shoes, or old tennis shoes will give you better grip and protect your feet from sharp rocks or any debris in the water.
Watch for slippery rocks. Nearly any rock that is wet or underwater will be slippery, so be very careful when stepping on wet rocks.
Never, never jump or dive. No matter how deep you think the water is, never ever jump in or dive in. Ever. Serious injuries are very possible, and it can be difficult for emergency vehicles to reach you.
Bring bug spray and sunscreen. A lot of creeking areas are shaded, but there are definitely patches of sun that can sneak through. And you can guarantee there will be some bugs around the water.
Protect your belongings. If you are creeking in a public spot, you don’t want to leave any valuables on shore, as you may wander further than expected. Wear a backpack/bag/clothing with zipper pocket, and place cellphone and keys in a plastic bag or waterproof bag. Both can slip out of your pocket easily and be lost or ruined.
Creeking in Columbus North
6320 Artesian Run, Lewis Center, OH 43035
NOTE: Peak visiting hours are 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The park is usually at capacity, which means when one car leaves then one more may enter.
Amenities: 2 trails, off-trail exploration and natural play areas, nature center
Creeking IS encouraged! Check out shale pieces that have washed down river, play in the natural play area, and enjoy a snack at the log table. Respect that barriers downstream as the creeks beyond the barrier are on private property.
9466 Columbus Pike, Lewis Center
Amenities: Trails, playgrounds, nature play areas, restrooms, nature center
Park at Big Meadows Picnic Area and walk past the natural play area until the creek it at your preferred level.
5200 Emerald Parkway
Amenities: Pedestrian bridges, new multi-use paths, outdoor exercise equipment, a skate park and new tennis courts, fishing, playground, restrooms, and more.
Kids frequently play in the creek near the playground.
4715 Vista Ridge Dr. Dublin, OH 43017
Amenities: Walking trails, fishing, nature areas, river access, playground and play village, restrooms.
Reader tip suggested there is a good area to play in the water near the boat launch
6245 Riverside Dr. Dublin, OH 43017
Amenities: Walking path, fishing, river access, and hidden Riverbox
Boardwalk nature-trail through the wetlands along the river
700 Shawan Falls Dr.
Amenities: Nature trails, observation platforms, a bridge traversing the waterfalls and shelter houses west of the falls.
Rules are not clear for this body of water other than swimming and jumping off/into the falls IS prohibited. Creeking in the shallow water away from the falls is generally considered acceptable (people have receiving differing reports from Dublin Police Dept). Extra caution should apply, as it’s difficult for rescue crews to get to the area if there is an emergency. If there are signs to stay out of the water below the waterfall, please abide by them.
Apple Ridge Picnic Area: 1069 W. Main Street, Westerville, OH 43081
Amenities: Multipurpose trails, restrooms, playground, picnic areas, nature center
Explore the 7.5 acre Natural Play Area with wooded hillside and Spring Creek. Kids and their caregivers can wander off-trail, climb trees, dig in the mud and experience unstructured play in nature. Enter from the last parking lot at the Apple Ridge Picnic Area. Entry sign on right side of the lot.
7741 Lewis Center Road, Westerville
Amenities: Restrooms, wildlife blind, Glacier Ridge Trail, natural play area, lots of shade, and parking.
Reader suggestion! Kids will love the natural play area with stumps, stick hut, creeking, and more.
Creeking in Columbus – East
Creekside Park and Friendship Park in Gahanna (Big Walnut Creek)
Friendship Park: 150 Oklahoma Ave., Gahanna, Ohio
Amenities: Restrooms, playground, outdoor musical instruments, tennis and basketball courts, fishing, paddleboats
Follow the Story Book Trail to a great place to get in the creek. The 2020 Story Trail tale features the story, “The World Around Her.” The tale is illustrated on colorful panels that draw visitors into the woods toward the creek.
213 Camrose Ct.
Amenities: Restrooms, playground, canoe launch, basketball courts and baseball fields, catch and release fishing, and plenty of parking.
This park was a reader suggestion, so we haven’t visited yet, but there is a natural playground and other fun things to discover! Big Walnut Creek runs along the back of the park. Woodside Green Park and Academy Park (1201 Cherry Bottom Rd.) are connected by a multipurpose trail between the parks across Walnut Creek. Both offer restrooms, playgrounds, creek access, and more.
4265 E Dublin Granville Rd. Columbus, OH 43081. Turn right at ranger station then second left to parking lot. Entrance at far end of the lot.
Amenities: Playground, restrooms, trails, nature center
A 10-acre area with a wooded hillside and ravine where kids can safely roam and enjoy unstructured play in nature by climbing trees, playing in the dirt and other fun adventures. Special features include zip line, teeter-totter, basket swing, cargo climbing net, a tether-ball game and various stepped logs over ravines and streams
West end of Kingsley Dr., Reynoldsburg, OH 43068
Amenities: Small parking lot, Hiking trails / bike trails throughout the park
Natural areas throughout the park. Creek runs between green/yellow trails, and green/red trails.
Covered Bridge Ln, Pickerington, OH 43147
Amenities: Playground, restrooms (April 1 – October 31), fishing lake, basketball court, putting green, 15 station ninja warrior course, covered bridge, pickleball courts, tennis courts, walking paths. Read more about the Ninja Warrior Course here.
Cross the covered bridge for a good creeking spot not far from the soccer fields. An arboretum is just past the creek.
Creeking in Columbus – West
2705 Darby Creek Drive Galloway, OH 43119
Amenities: Natural Play area, hiking trails, roaming bison in pastures, parking, nature center, spand restrooms. You can access the natural play area from the last parking lot in the Indian Ridge Picnic Area.
Explore the 9-acre natural play area with boulders and logs to climb. Wade in the super clean creek and check out visitor made forts along the footpaths.
Darby Bend Lakes at Prairie Oaks Metro Parks, 2755 Amity Rd, Hilliard Ohio 43026 or 3225 NE Plain City-Georgesville Rd
West Jefferson (there are multiple entrances).
Amenities: Restrooms, parking, natural play areas, kayaking/canoeing, fishing, trails, and beautiful scenery.
This was a reader suggestion, as I totally forgot checking out the creek 6 years ago! (see pic). There are multiple places to access Big Darby Creek at Prairie Oaks to catch crawdads and enjoy the water.
Creeking in Columbus – South
5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City, OH 43123
Amenities: For restrooms and playground, stop at the Arrowhead Picnic Area. You can pick up the trail there, but it’ll be a longer walk.
Best place for creeking is under the Rope Bridge over Grant Run along the REI River Trail – park at Grove Lodge.
2255 Home Rd., Grove City, Ohio 43123
Amenities: Playground, restrooms, hill slide, public herb garden, arboretum, labyrinth, and more
Reviews recommend the bumpy hill slide and creeking behind the park and walking trail.
Do you have a favorite creeking spot?
Are we missing any? Leave a comment so we can add it to the list!
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