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.
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