Five wonderful rivers crisscross the counties that hold the Dayton metropolis in a lovely, rural basket.

Five wonderful rivers crisscross the counties that hold the Dayton metropolis in a lovely, rural basket.

They curl through backyards, separate field from forest and splice a landscape that in certain places is farmland as far as you can see. The Gem City was so smitten with this water that it named its recreation department the Five Rivers MetroParks in honor of the Mad and Great Miami rivers and Wolf and Twin creeks.

And, of course, the lovely and unassuming Stillwater State Scenic River, which ambles quietly from headwaters near Beamsville to its confluence with the Great Miami River.

Places to see it abound, but the best I've found is Stillwater Prairie Reserve, located in a decidedly out-there enclave about an hour and 45 minutes west of Columbus.

From the entrance off State Route 185, park south of the Old Pond and step into a series of short trail segments leading through the namesake grasslands. Some paths are dirt, while others are thin, grassy strips carved by a mower.

All are recommended, and you're never far from a completely new habitat.

The prairies on site are home to some of the native grasses and wildflowers that were growing when Pennsylvania homesteaders John and Elizabeth Hagan came over and built a sawmill on the river in 1840.

Along the river, you'll find flat, pockmarked banks of limestone that provide a perfect place to cast for the smallmouth bass that draw anglers from across the state. (You need an Ohio license to throw a line in the river, but not to fish either of the reserve's two ponds.)

Wandering away from the water, you'll find wetlands in a southwest corner and several boardwalk loops. Another trail system lies across the river, but your only way over is to wade through or access another entrance by car.

Like the river it's named for, Stillwater Prairie Reserve is lovely and calm - the kind of place with picnic spots pretty much everywhere you look and the big sky that makes Ohio's western side such a treat.