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BIG DARBY PLAINS SCENIC BYWAY
Prior to European settlement in the early 1800s, Ohio contained about a thousand square miles of prairies. These prairies, scattered around the western half of the state, varied in size from a few acres to several thousand acres. One of the largest concentration of prairies occurred in the Darby Plains. Small, but excellent remnants of this prairie ecosystem can be seen today along the Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway.

The main route runs parallel to the state- and nationally-designated Scenic Big Darby Creek for more than 27 miles through Union, Champaign and Madison counties. The byway includes additional spurs totaling over 20 miles and features access to the scenic river, nature preserves and parks. There are also several covered and historic bridges, century farms, cemeteries, and homes of interest along the routes as it passes by North Lewisburg and through Milford Center, Unionville Center and Plain City.
 
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Click for more information from ODOT   Click for an online guide to Ohio’s Byways
 
Click here for an overview of the Bridges of Union County.
 
Nature preserves are at Smith Cemetery, Bigelow Cemetery and Milford Center Prairie State Natural Area.
 
BIGELOW CEMETERY STATE NATURE PRESERVE
Bigelow Cemetery has never been plowed or grazed. It appears to be perched above the surrounding farm fields, a reflection of how much of the original prairie soil from these fields has been lost to wind and water erosion over the decades.

Because Bigelow was a pioneer cemetery many of the tombstones are in need of repair. As time and funds are available the division is repairing them. These tombstones often impart tragic stories: many children did not survive infancy; wives died young, often during childbirth; and epidemics sometimes claimed entire families.

But there are also gravestones of hardy individuals in their 60s, 70s and 80s, a remarkable testimonial to human survival at a time when adult life expectancy rarely exceeded 45-50 years. Summer-blooming prairie wildflowers are at their peak from late July through August.

Local Directions:
Located 8 miles west of Plain City on State Route 161, the preserve is less than 1/2 mile south on the west side of Rosedale Rd. The site has pull-off parking. The preserve is owned by the Pike Township Trustees and managed by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
Website:
http://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/bigelowcemetery
 
SMITH CEMETERY STATE NATURE PRESERVE
In pioneer cemeteries, the original prairie sod supports relicts of original prairie flora and serves as the final resting place for many of the first settlers whose lives were so interwoven with the prairie wilderness of the Darby Plains.

December 17, 1982, 148 years after Samuel Smith Jr. transferred ownership of this cemetery to the Darby Township Trustees, the trustees dedicated Smith Cemetery as a state nature preserve to be managed by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. It is managed to preserve the historic tombstones, perpetuate the prairie plants and eliminate invading non-native plant species.

Local Directions:
Located in Madison County, 2 miles west of Plain City on SR 161; proceed 1 mile south on Kramer Road, (Union County Road 42) this road becomes Converse Chapel Road (Madison County Road 41) then .25 mile west on Boyd Road to the prairie cemetery located on the north side.
Website:
http://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/smithcemetery
 
MILFORD CENTER PRAIRIE STATE NATURAL AREA
Before being a powerline right-of-way for Dayton Power and Light Company, this site was a railroad right-of-way. It is a very significant prairie remnant of the Darby Plains.

Although only 1.5 miles in length, the site supports at least 57 different species of prairie plants. Typical species present include big bluestem, royal catchfly, smooth rose, prairie dock, stiff goldenrod and gray-headed coneflower.

The best time for viewing prairie wildflowers here is in late July through August.

Local Directions:
Located in Union County, 2.5 miles south of Milford Center along SR 4; proceed west on Connor Road less than .5 mile to the powerline right-or-way. Park in the right-of-way just off Connor Road and follow the mowed right-of-way path south across Treacle Creek.
Website:
http://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/state-nature-preserves/find-a-state-nature-preserve/milford-center-prairie
Union County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Email us at tknotts@unioncounty.org or call 937.642.6279
Join us at The Pottersburg Bridge, 17141 Inskeep-Cratty Rd., North Lewisburg, Ohio 43060