Wildlife Area Spotlights
Augustine Wildlife Area
Lying along the western shore of the Delaware River, the Augustine Wildlife Area stretches from the bank of the C&D Canal south to the Appoquinimink River. The 5 major tracts (Lang, Ashton, Warren/Faella, Silver Run, and Green) are scattered along the Route 9 corridor, and encompass approximately 5,200 acres of upland and tidal marsh habitats. Just south of the town of Port Penn, visitors will find the Augustine Beach boat ramp. This ramp is a popular site for shoreline and boat anglers looking to target the striped bass which migrate up the river to spawn each spring, as well as provides the opportunity to catch white perch, catfish, and a multitude of other species on the Delaware River and surrounding creeks and marshes.
The newest addition to the Augustine Wildlife area is the Ashton Tract, which backs up to and contains a portion of the 1000 Acre Marsh. This 550+ acre tract received its name from the Ashton Historic District, of which two of the original historic homes remain on site today. Consisting of a mixture of freshwater marsh, upland forest, early successional meadows, and agricultural fields, this tract is rapidly gaining notoriety for the exceptional bird watching that can be experienced there. To provide better access to this property and the birding resource, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has recently completed the construction of a short trail and wildlife viewing platform as part of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative. Visitors to this trail will notice the numerous habitat improvements underway throughout the property including phragmites control, invasive species and forest restoration, creation of early successional meadows, and the restoration of a freshwater impoundment. The Ashton Tract also provides excellent hunting opportunities for those seeking deer, waterfowl, and small game. Currently the area is only open to youth and non-ambulatory deer hunting but opens to everyone for waterfowl hunting. Drawings for the deer stands and waterfowl blinds are conducted daily in season at the Augustine check station.
Another highlight of the Augustine Wildlife Area is the Lang Impoundment which is located along Route 9 just north of Port Penn. This impoundment provides waterfowl and migrating shorebirds a great place to stop and rest and feed while 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 the nearby Pea Patch Island. With Restoration efforts underway and the dike repairs made vegetation communities should continue to change and provide a resting and feeding spot for migrating waterfowl and shore birds. To view this area better there has been a viewing platform established on the Port Penn Tract funded by the Bayshore initiative.
Whether you’re looking for a new place to hunt, fish, view wildlife, or just taking a Sunday drive on the Route 9 Bayshore Byway, take a few minutes to explore the Augustine Wildlife Area, there truly is something for everyone.
Assawoman Wildlife Area
The Assawoman Wildlife Area is one of the busiest State Wildlife Areas managed by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. Located in Sussex County on Little Assawoman Bay, the southernmost of the three Inland Bays, it is “a stone’s throw” from the ocean at Bethany Beach. The lands of what would become Assawoman Wildlife Area were assembled from 1936 to 1942 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forestry Service under a farm abandonment program designed to help struggling farmers. In 1948, the Delaware Board of Fish and Wildlife Commissioners signed a 99 year lease on 1,460 acres with the USDA for the “purpose of wildlife, recreation and forest management,” purchasing the same lands in 1954 to establish Assawoman Wildlife Area. The original acreage was supplemented in 1989 with the purchase of the Hickman Tract (227 acres) to protect Assawoman Pond, which contains a very rare plant, Hirst’s panicgrass, one of only three known occurrences in the world. Expansion of the area continued between 1989 and 1997 with an additional 830 acres acquired as six tracts. And this year in an area adjacent to the Hickman Tract the area grew by 15 acres on wetlands thanks to a donation by the Bessie Shockley estate in December 2022.
In 1984, endangered Delmarva fox squirrels were released onto the area to restore the species to Delaware. That population never established and, in the fall of 2020, a second attempt to trap wild squirrels in Maryland where they are plentiful and to move them to Delaware was made. The subsequent batches of additional squirrels were released into forests with large pines which they prefer and monitored for the last 2 years using radio collars. Young Delmarva Fox Squirrel born at Assawoman were caught in the fall of 2022 proving that the project has early success.
Today, Assawoman Wildlife Area has become a destination for hunters, crabbers, boaters and birdwatchers who seek respite from the colorful beach life of Bethany and Fenwick Island.
The property has many interesting features. Two historic pavilions, built from 1935 – 1936 under President Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration’s New Deal program, are located at two popular crabbing and boat launching areas — Strawberry and Mulberry Landings. A 50-foot tall observation tower along Mulberry Landing Road provides a view of Mulberry and 65-Acre Ponds, impoundments built to attract water birds and control mosquitos. Hunters will find 20 duck blinds and 81 deer stands camouflaged and ready for each season. Memorial Pond is stocked with bass and bluegills and open to “catch & release” fishing year-round. The four mile long Self-Guided Auto Tour leads motorists over dirt roads through the wildlife area to numbered posts corresponding to points of interest described in the interpretive guide. Hikers, bikers and birdwatchers can follow the seven miles of roads to enjoy the loblolly pine and American holly forest, abundant bird life and beautiful vistas.
Several projects are “in the pipeline” including replacing the observation tower at Mulberry Pond with a viewing platform and boardwalk and a parking lot upgrade at Mulberry Landing Boat Ramp. A pier on new lands at Piney Point was improved to provide crabbing and fishing on Vines Creek in January 2023. This winter the over 50 acres of tidal marshes north of Miller Creek were restored with materials dredged from Whites Creek in Ocean View pumped over 5 miles and evenly spread across degraded marshes. And finally freshwater wetlands will be created in farmed fields at Muddy Neck to help mitigate the impacts from a new bike path along Double Bridges Road soon.
Come discover Assawoman Wildlife Area, the “hidden jewel” of the Inland Bays.