Far From the Maddening Crowd
The beach is a great place to get back to nature. These refuges and preserves offer plenty of it. By kayak, bicycle or on foot, there is plenty to explore.
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For many people, getting back to nature at the beach means unfurling a blanket on the hot sand and watching the waves. Not for David Podlaseck of Bridgeville. To commune with nature, he likes to head to Cape Henlopen State Park. “I like to hike,” he says. “They’ve got a nice biking trail as well, and there’s lots to see and do, including bird-watching.”
Though Cape Henlopen is one of the best-known wildlife areas, it is certainly not the only one. The coast is pleasantly packed with places where you can soak in the flora and the fauna, as well as the sun. Here are a few to investigate this summer.
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
11978 Turkle Pond Road, Milton, 684-8419, fws.gov/northeast/primehook
Prime Hook is a variation of the original Dutch settlers’ name for the area, Priume Hoek, which means Plum Point. And beach plums still flourish in the refuge.
One of two national refuges in Delaware—Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County is the other—Prime Hook is a sanctuary for birds. In fact, it was established in 1963 following the passage of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. In fall, more than 100,000 snow geese and 80,000 ducks take a breather in the refuge.
“We have migrating shorebirds in the spring and migrating and wintering waterfowl in the winter,” says Bill Jones, manager of visitors’ services. Catch a glimpse via the seven-mile Prime Hook Creek, which is ideal for kayaks and canoes, or on the five miles of walking trails.
Mary Ann Benyo, who has a house on the beach in Prime Hook, frequently sees ospreys. Visits from turtles and rabbits are common.
Look for: Nesting bald eagles, migrating peregrine falcons, herons, egrets, ibis and American bitterns. There are 35 species of reptiles and amphibians, including frogs, salamanders and lizards, and there are 36 different mammals. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel, which was reintroduced to the refuge in 1986.
“They’re not your typical squirrel,” Jones says. “They’re bigger and more silver-colored. If you see one, take some time and take note.” In the 10 years he’s worked at the refuge, Jones can count on one hand the times that he’s spotted one.
Wear bug spray. “At times there are clouds of mosquitoes,” Benyo says. “You can hear them hum. It’s impressive.”
Page 2: The Edward H. McCabe Preserve and Pemberton Forest Preserve