One of the most scenic state parks in western Ohio, the 752-acre John Bryan State Park contains a remarkable limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River.
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.
The park’s wooded campground offers a total of 61 single campsites.
- 9 electric sites
- 52 non-electric sites
- Most campsites are partially shaded and are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings.
- Latrines, drinking water and a dump station are available.
- Pets are permitted on all sites.
- Drinking water is not available during off season.
An 18-hole disc golf course is available.
The Little Miami River provides excellent stream fishing opportunities for anglers. Smallmouth bass, rock bass and panfish are in abundance.
- Fishing is not allowed in the nearby Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve.
- Ohio fishing regulations apply.
- A valid Ohio fishing license is required (16 and older).
Mountain bikes are permitted on 9.7 miles of interconnected single use and multi-use trails. Trail segments with mostly level terrain are suited to novice cyclists, while ramps, log jumps, climbs and creek crossings provide more challenges to make the ride interesting for intermediate cyclists.
- Arboretum Trail (Observatory Trail) - 1.2 Miles
- Power Line Loop - 2.25 Miles
- Abracadabra Trail - 2.25 Miles
- Great Scott Lower Trail - 2.17 Miles
- Great Scott Loop and Exit Trail - 3.0 Miles
- Frankenlite Loop Trail - 2.72 Miles
More from the Miami Valley Mountain Bike Association
There are several picnic areas in the park. All areas have tables, grills and latrines. Some areas also have drinking water.
Rock Climbing and Rappelling
A public rock climbing and rappelling area has been established on a section of the North Rim Trail. Access this area via a trail from a parking lot on the south side of the park road about a mile east of the parks' center. Equipment is not provided and all climbers are encouraged to use safe climbing practices. Top-rope climbing is permitted from dawn to dusk. Bouldering is prohibited.
Ten hiking trails traverse the park:
- Big Furnace Trail (Camp Trail) - 1 Mile
- Quarry Loop Trail - 0.5 Mile
- North Rim Trail - 2.7 Miles
- Pitt-Cinci Stage Coach Trail - 1.3 Miles
- Poplar Trail - 0.1 Mile
- Ridge Trail - 1.5 Miles
- South Gorge Trail - 1.2 Miles
- Orton Memorial Trail - 0.4 Mile
- Gorge Trail (John L. Rich Trail) - 1.3 Miles
- Narrows Trail (John L. Rich Trail) - 0.6 Mile
One hiking trail also allows bicycles:
- Arboretum Trail (Observatory Trail) - 1.2 Miles
Adjacent to the park, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve also offers additional hiking trails which can be accessed from the park, however, pets are not allowed in the state nature preserve.
Under the proper winter conditions, park guests can enjoy sledding and cross-country skiing.
History & Natural Features
Some of the first people to experience the area's beauty were the Moundbuilders, and later, the Shawnee Native Americans. 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 is maintained 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 its textile mill, grist mills and sawmills. By the late 1800s, water was no longer an economical source of power and many mills were abandoned. Today, Clifton Mill, a nearby grist mill built in 1802, is still in operation and is open to visitors.
The park takes its name from businessman John Bryan 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."
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.
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 limestone and shale bedrock. Each layer has a story to tell of times when the area was covered by warm, shallow seas or was scoured by tons of slow-moving glacial ice. Each layer has its own characteristics. 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 and 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.
Not only did the glaciers affect the landscape, but they also affected vegetation. 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 such as 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, bellwort, 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.