on February 3, 2007
Some 10,000 acres of hiking trails, freshwater wetland and brackish marshes await visitors to Delaware’s Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.Hikers, canoeists and photographers will find paradise at the nearly 10,000 acres of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. For hiking, there are five relatively short trails that wind their way through wetlands and tidal salt marshes. Canoe enthusiasts can paddle up and down some seven miles of freshwater wetland and brackish marsh along Prime Hook Creek as well as other streams and ditches for a total of about 15 miles. And photographers will delight in the abundance of wildflowers, greenery, small animals and wild birds throughout the area.But if you go, don't do as my husband and I did: forget to pack heavy duty insect repellent. July, when we were there, is a peak month for deer flies – and I’m here to attest that they can attack pretty viciously.Disappointment at not being able to hike as much as we'd have liked didn't curb our enthusiasm for this impressive refuge, though. We took copious photos of the marshes, sand dunes, wildflowers (and yes, even those two brave kayakers), albeit it mostly from the four paved highways that pass through the area. The refuge, located on the Atlantic Flyway, boasts 4,200 acres of freshwater marshes and some 2,300 acres of tidal salt marshes that stretch from Slaughter Beach to the north to the Broadkill River at the south.One of the first questions we had is why the refuge is named Prime Hook - and much to our delight, brochures at the visitor center provided the answer. When Dutch settlers arrived here, they found a huge supply of purple beach plums (we found some as well). So, they called the area Priume Hoek, which translates to Plum Point; later, this was Americanized to Prime Hook. Established in 1963 to preserve coastal wetlands for the benefit of migratory waterfowl and other birds that spend winters here, more than 100,000 snow geese and 80,000 ducks may be in residence during their fall migration. Visitors may see ducks, geese, and shorebirds as well as the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel and bald eagle. All told, the refuge provides habitat for approximately 267 species of birds, 35 of reptiles and amphibians and 36 mammals.The visitor center also serves as an education office, complete with a small auditorium and several exhibits and films. The Dike Trail, one-mile round-trip, ends at an extensive wood observation deck with great views of freshwater marsh. We took a peek at the photography blind located close to the visitor center, but we didn't spot anything other than greenery on this trip. In fact, just about the only moving creatures we spotted besides those pesky deer flies were a handful of tiny tadpoles and a swarm of honeybees that blocked our path on another hiking trail.
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