Description - Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 primarily to preserve coastal wetlands as wintering and breeding habitat for migratory waterfowl. The refuge consists of over 9,700 acres, approximately 7,400 acres of which are fresh marsh, tidal marsh, and open water. Other habitats include approximately 1,000 acres of timber and brush and 1,300 acres of grasslands and croplands. The refuge provides homes for numerous species of birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates.
Copyright: Patty Elton - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Water levels on more than 4,200 acres of marsh are raised or lowered at different times of the year through a system of low dikes and water control structures. This management stimulates the growth of emergent aquatic plant species for wildlife use. Management of the water level is important for restoring and maintaining suitable resting and feeding habitat for migratory wintering waterfowl and shorebirds. The refuge provides nesting habitat for wood ducks, black ducks, and other species. Overall, refuge management is directed toward providing a variety of habitat types for maximum wildlife diversity.
Upland fields are managed under an agreement with local farmers who plant supplemental food for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Prime Hook manages the forested lands as habitat for the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel which was reintroduced to the refuge in 1986. The management of this endangered species includes monitoring the squirrel boxes, and capturing, tagging and releasing the squirrels to get an index of their population.
- Spectacular concentrations of migrating waterfowl can be observed during certain periods in the spring and fall. Shorebirds can be observed in the spring eating invertebrates in the wetland areas, and horseshoe crab eggs along the Delaware Bay beaches.
Migrations through the refuge provide an excellent opportunity for nature study. Fall concentrations of Canada geese, snow geese, black ducks, mallards, pintails, teal, and wood ducks are of particular interest. May is the best time for viewing shorebirds and warblers. In spring, visitors usually get a glimpse of the varied amphibian and reptile life. Most frequently sighted wetland species are the red-bellied and painted turtles, while various frog species such as spring peeper, cricket, green and bull frogs can be heard.
A visitor center was opened to the public in 1997 and contains wildlife displays, an auditorium, and Friends of Prime Hook sales outlet. Hours are 7:30 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. Volunteers staff the center on weekends from April 1 to Thanksgiving from 9 AM to 4 PM.
Hunting of waterfowl, deer, upland game birds, and small game is permitted within season. Tidal waterways, Turkle and Fleetwood Ponds are open to sport fishing. In addition, Petersfield Ditch and Slaughter Canal are popular crabbing and fishing sites. Canoe enthusiasts have over 15 miles of streams and ditches to enjoy. Several boat ramps are available.
Four short and easy hiking trails and four state highways that transect the refuge afford the visitor an ideal opportunity to observe and photograph a variety of wildlife and plants.
Recreation - Prime Hook visitors will find opportunities to boat, fish, primitive camp, hike, canoe and seasonally hunt.
Climate - The Chesapeake and Delaware Bays moderate Delaware's climate. The state experiences four distinct seasons. Winter can be bitterly cold. Highs during this season average near freezing with low temperatures near 0 degrees F. Spring comes to this region in mid to late March. This is a pleasant time to visit with moderate temperatures and low humidity. Summer brings temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees F. Humidity is highest inland with ocean breezes cooling the shoreline. Fall brings cooler temperatures and low humidity. The forested regions of the state often have brilliant foliage displays.
Located on Delaware Bay, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is headquartered 12 miles southeast of Milford and 10 miles northwest of Lewes.