Wildlife Area Spotlights
Augustine Wildlife Area | By Eric Ludwig
Lying along the western shore of the Delaware River, the Augustine Wildlife Area stretches from the C&D Canal south to the Appoquinimink River. The five major tracts, Lang, Ashton, Warren/Faella, Silver Run and Green, are scattered along the Route 9 corridor and encompass approximately 5000 acres of upland and tidal-marsh habitats. Just south of the town of Port Penn, visitors will find the Augustine Beach boat ramp and fishing area, a popular site for boat and shoreline anglers targeting striped bass that migrate up the river to spawn each spring and white perch, catfish and other species found in the Delaware River and surrounding creeks.
The newest addition to the Augustine Wildlife area is the Ashton Tract, which adjoins and includes a portion of the 1000 Acre Marsh. This over 330 acre tract received its name from the Ashton Historic District, with two of the original historic homes remaining on site. Consisting of a mixture of freshwater marsh, upland forest, early successional meadows and agricultural fields, this tract is rapidly gaining regional notoriety for exceptional bird watching. To provide better access to this property and the birding resource, the Division of Fish & Wildlife recently completed the construction of a trail and wildlife viewing platform as part of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative. Visitors to this trail will notice the numerous habitat improvements underway, including management of Phragmites and other invasive plant species, forest restoration, creation of early successional meadows and restoration of a freshwater impoundment. The Ashton Tract also provides excellent hunting opportunities for waterfowl and deer, available through a daily lottery to access waterfowl hunting and youth and non-ambulatory deer hunting locations.
Another highlight of the Augustine Wildlife Area is the Lang Impoundment located along Route 9 just north of Port Penn, which provides migrating waterfowl and shorebirds a great place to rest and feed on their long migrations. During the summer months, this impoundment also serves as a key feeding area for many of the herons and egrets that nest on nearby Pea Patch Island. The Lang Impoundment infrastructure is currently in poor condition and the water level cannot be properly managed, with a major restoration project planned to refurbish the dike system and renovate the water control structure. Once renovated, the Lang Impoundment will provide diverse freshwater wetland habitat and a variety of plant and animal species not found in the Division’s brackish or saline impoundments.
Whether you are looking for a new place to hunt, fish, view wildlife or just taking a Sunday drive on the Route 9 Bayshore Byway, take some time to explore the Augustine Wildlife Area where you will find a variety of fish and wildlife species and outdoor recreation opportunities provided by the Division of Fish & Wildlife as We Bring You Delaware’s Great Outdoors through Science and Service.
Eric Ludwig is the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s New Castle County Regional Manager
Old Furnace Wildlife Area | By Rob Gano
The Old Furnace Wildlife Area spans over 2,000 acres of mostly wooded habitat in the Nanticoke River watershed located midway between Seaford and Georgetown. Although much of the area is dry upland habitat, Deep Creek, a tributary of the Nanticoke River, forms its western boundary where forested wetlands are located. The nearby Concord Pond and Fleetwood Pond are historic mill ponds open to the public for freshwater fishing.
Old Furnace Wildlife Area, named after a bog iron furnace operated along the nearby Deep Creek in a bygone era, is one of three public wildlife areas established in the year 2000 when Chesapeake Forest Products Company, a prominent paper products company, sold land holdings on the Delmarva Peninsula. The Conservation Fund, a private conservation organization, facilitated the sale by buying, holding and reselling the forest lands to natural resource departments, allowing the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife to expand its public land holdings and establish the Old Furnace Wildlife Area. Soon thereafter, another company, J. G. Townsend, a local business that grew trees for timber products, sold additional lands directly to the division that also became part of the Old Furnace Wildlife Area.
Each timber company planted rows of loblolly pine trees as “pine plantations” to quickly grow straight, tall pine trees, with stands planted at different times to produce pine stands of varying ages. While these pine stands are diverse in age and provide valuable wood products, they consist of a single species and are of limited wildlife habitat value. To transition these pine plantations to diversified forest habitats, the Division of Fish & Wildlife has partnered with the Delaware Forest Service to develop a forest management plan to manage these forests for both timber and improved wildlife habitat.
Habitat projects otherwise completed include two wildlife food and cover plots within the powerline right-of-way located north of Fleetwood Pond. Two large farm fields included with the J. G. Townsend sale are still farmed, with the private farmer lease agreement requiring that some of the crops be left unharvested to provide winter food for wildlife.
Access to the Old Furnace Wildlife Area is through a system of roads, ditch banks and gated entrances, with area boundaries well marked. Deer and turkey hunting are very popular. Two recently installed deer stands for disabled hunters off Fleetwood Pond Road are accessible from an internal road on a first-come, first-served basis, with parking available near the deer stands.
Old Furnace Wildlife Area’s extensive internal dirt road system provides ample opportunities for wildlife viewing and associated hiking. The wildlife area provides hunting adventures from September through January and other outdoor recreation discoveries during other seasons. Come explore the hidden site that is the Old Furnace Wildlife Area.
Rob Gano is the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Sussex County Regional Manager
TONY FLORIO WOODLAND BEACH WILDLIFE AREA | By Bill Jones
Situated along the Delaware Bay, between the Smyrna River and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, the Tony Florio Woodland Beach Wildlife Area is managed for you by the Division of Fish & Wildlife. The area contains over 6,300 acres, consisting of 4,700 acres of tidal salt marsh balanced with an array of mature hardwood forests, hedgerows, fallow and agricultural fields and open water collectively attractive to many species of wildlife.
Due to its location and natural amenities, waterfowl management has been a primary objective for the area. When the area was first acquired, the assemblage of upland ponds, planted goose pastures and agricultural crops within a protected refuge area served to attract migrating and wintering Canada geese, which continues today. Habitat improvements have expanded to include management of water levels in the Taylor’s Gut impoundment to produce vegetation and invertebrates attractive to ducks, shorebirds and other water birds.
The wildlife area provides a wide variety of hunting, fishing and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Deer, waterfowl and small game hunting are offered primarily on a permit basis through a checking station located on Route 9 near the Aquatic Resources Education Center (AREC). State-built deer stands and duck blinds are provided for hunters through a lottery, while archery deer hunters can widely hunt within established zones. This wildlife area is managed as a Quality Buck Area, requiring bucks to have an outside spread of at least 15 inches to be harvested, with this requirement waived for youth under 17 and non-ambulatory disabled hunters. Several deer stands and duck blinds have been modified to accommodate disabled hunters. Small game hunting is offered through the check station on a zone basis and spring turkey hunting is offered through the statewide Public Land Turkey Permit lottery. A sunflower field was newly established in 2016 to provide additional dove hunting opportunities.
Delaware Bay fishing is available from the area’s disabled-accessible fishing pier located in the town of Woodland Beach at the end of Route 6. Anglers can launch a boat from the wildlife area’s boat ramp located on Route 6 on the western edge of town to access Duck Creek and the Bay, with the ramp used by waterfowl hunters to access the area’s duck blinds. There are four small stocked ponds, Berman, Edna, AREC 1 and AREC 2, which offer shoreline catch-and-release freshwater fishing.
The Tony Florio Woodland Beach Wildlife Area is well known for its wildlife-viewing opportunities. An observation tower erected in the 1970s near the Taylor’s Gut impoundment and several upland ponds is still popular and provides outstanding bird watching opportunities. The 1.5-mile nature trail at the AREC includes a 940-foot boardwalk over tidal wetlands and provides a unique and educational outdoor experience.
Explore the Tony Florio Woodland Beach Wildlife Area and discover its variety of quality fish and wildlife outdoor recreation opportunities. You will likely return for more outdoor adventures.
Bill Jones is the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Kent County Regional Manager