Out and About in Delaware's State Parks
|by Stephen Schilly|
|Winter Wonderland Winter's icy grasp took a firm hold on the mid-Atlantic region in late January. A blizzard that dumped record snowfalls from Pennsylvania through the New England states sideswiped lower Delaware leaving only a few inches of snow. While I am not a fan of winter weather, I found myself drawn into the quiet beauty of the storm when it first arrived in the resort area. I curled up by the fire and watched as the nearby forest became quickly coated by the lightly falling flakes.
Despite the poor weather, the area was alive with wildlife. Brightly colored cardinals and other songbirds intent on feeding were very noticeable against the new carpet of white. A handsome red fox wandered by to drink from the water tumbling into our frozen koi pond. Squirrels occasionally came into view determined to raid a nearby bird feeder. It wasn't hard to have an appreciation for such a beautiful, peaceful vision. Every season has its special pleasures, I was glad I had taken the time to enjoy the experience!
Even though I was easily "lulled" by the beauty of the recent snowfall, it didn't take long for the reality of winter to set in for me. After snowing for several hours, the storm switched over to rain and sleet. The snow acted like a sponge sopping up moisture and turning into a slushy mess. I was not happy when I had to brave the rain to shovel off the driveway. It was either that or face the certainty of several inches of ice when everything froze that evening. By the time the job was done, I was a cold, drenched mess. The miserable conditions reminded me how much I dislike cold weather. With months of winter ahead, I'm already dreaming of the warm summer season to come. It can't get here fast enough to suit me!
Park Explorations In writing this column over the past several years, I have focused my attention on providing information concerning the Division of Parks and Recreation and especially Cape Henlopen State Park. While I plan to continue highlighting that facility, I want to take a portion of each column in 2005 to feature another of Delaware's 14 State Parks. Each of these sites has unique natural and cultural resources which make them special places to enjoy and explore.
Trap Pond State Park In kicking off an exploration of our park system, there's no better place to begin than with than the site which started it all...Trap Pond. A personal favorite of mine, the pond, along with Fort Delaware, became the first of Delaware's state parks in 1951. (At right is a photo of the Trap Pond spillway in Winter.) Located approximately 30 miles west from Rehoboth Beach near Laurel, the park is truly a hidden gem. The facility consists of a number of tracts of land encompassing Trap Pond, Trussum Pond and the James Branch Nature Preserve. In all, the park totals more than 3000 acres in size. The pond was originally created in the late 1700s to power a sawmill that was used to exploit the surrounding forests. Chief among the resources harvested were bald cypress trees found in the freshwater wetlands of southwestern Sussex County. It is the remaining stands of these stately trees that give the park its special identity. Visitors have numerous opportunities to experience the quiet beauty of this special place. Miles of hiking and equestrian trails surround the pond. They wind through scenic forests and wetlands filled with songbirds, deer and other wildlife. Along the way, there are many opportunities to glimpse the remaining stands of baldcypress trees. For the more adventurous, perhaps the best way to experience the baldcypress "up close" is to take a boat onto the pond. The park offers canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and rowboats for rent during the summer months. For visitors less athletically inclined, the park also offers scheduled pontoon boat tours hosted by an interpreter. The park is an outstanding location for picnicking. Tables are scattered throughout the woods adjacent to the pond. Several pavilions are also available for rent. New playground facilities, as well as volleyball courts and horseshoe pits provide recreational opportunities for everyone in the family. The pond is a favorite spot for freshwater anglers hoping to land bluegills, crappie and largemouth bass. The park also has a popular 142-site campground that accommodates tent campers or recreational vehicles. For individuals without camping equipment, the park also features camping cabins and yurts for rent. There is truly something for everyone in this remarkable park! I strongly encourage you to check out this unique corner of Delaware. For more information on Trap Pond and its facilities and programs, check out our website at www.destateparks.com.
Nature's Best Bets
If you are looking for fun and exciting ways to spend your spare time, why not check out the Seaside Nature Center at Cape Henlopen State Park? The Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the year. Staff provides programs designed for individuals and families. A highlight of any visit is viewing the five 1000-gallon aquariums that feature different aquatic habitats. You'll be glad you took the time to explore this exciting facility.
If you are looking for fun activities, here are a number of "best bets" at the Seaside Nature Center in Cape Henlopen State Park:
Marine Muses Saturday, February 19, 1 p.m. Unravel the marine ecosystem that abounds within the area of Sussex County, Delaware. Each month will delve into various habitats as you venture to different site visits within the boundaries of this diverse county. Contact the nature center for site locations and activities.
Full Moon Hikes Wednesday, February 23 7 p.m. Take a guided walk through the moonlit landscape of Cape Henlopen State Park. Learn about the folklore and fact about Earth's closest neighbor. Pre-registration is required. Limited to 25 participants. $2 per person.
Mirror, Mirror Saturday, February 26, 1 p.m. Who's the fairest of them all? Not these sea creatures. Enjoy this light-hearted look at some of the more interesting creatures that inhabit the ocean waters.
For more information on these and other park programs, contact the Seaside Nature Center at 302-645-6852 or check out our website at www.destateparks.com
Stephen Schilly is Park Operations Administrator for the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation. He may be reached at email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 1 February 11, 2005