Sussex County, Delaware 2018

Last updated July 17, 2018



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Day One | Day Two

I've been kayaking in Sussex County, Delaware a few times. The last time Norma and I paddled there together was May 16-17, 2009. That was a great trip. I said it was time to revisit the area.

Due to conflicts with scheduling and weather issues, we put off this trip. But we were both free on July 7 and 8, 2018. As the date got closer, we noticed that the weather would be excellent. As of July 6, the forecast was
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 79. Northeast wind around 15 mph.
Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 58. Northeast wind 8 to 11 mph.
Sunday: Sunny, with a high near 82. Northeast wind 10 to 15 mph.

So Norma made campground reservations at Trap Pond State Park for us and Daphne. Unlike our previous camping trip on June 9, 2018 at New Germany State Park, this campground was entirely dog-friendly, whereas New Germany had dog-specific campsites.

I spent a little time (not much) putting together a weekend itinerary for us. I loaded up the night prior. This was the first time we took a single car for the three of us to go camping. I was surprised how packed my small car was with the kayak gear, dog supplies, and camping equipment. There was no room for a third person though I suppose we could have put stuff in the hatch of the boat if we wanted.

Day One, Saturday, July 7, 2018

The three of us left the house at 0605. We got across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge without any heavy traffic. Then we made our way to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. It was unusually cool for July so I figured it would be good to do a short hike before getting out on the water.

I chose the Pine Grove Trail, which Doggin' Delaware says is the "best half-hour hike with your dog."
The Pine Grove Trail follows a serpentine path between Turkle and Fleetwood ponds on lovely, paw-friendly pine straw beneath a phalanx of loblolly pines.

At the trailhead was Turkle Pond, where one can launch (first photo).

We walked out on a boardwalk. But rather than follow us, Daphne chose to walk in the mud where she sank up to her armpits (not difficult to do considering her short legs). A little later she joined us with her lower half all muddy. See second photo.

As advertised, there was plenty of paw-friendly pine straw that Daphne loved to run on. See third photo.

About midway through our hike, we came to Fleetwood Pond, another place one can launch (fourth photo).

Daphne was off-leash almost the whole time. She was loving life.

Next we drove to the visitor center and then walked on the Boardwalk Trail (fifth photo). I'm guessing we walked a total of two miles in the refuge.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Next, we drove to Brumbley Family Park where we launched my tandem kayak at their narrow launch site (first photo).

We paddled upstream on Primehook Creek as far as we could, doing one portage. We didn't get far. Then we kayaked downstream. It was very shallow near the sandy launch site and on wide parts of river. But for the latter, it was particularly muddy. You definitely don't want to get stuck out there in low tide. It was much shallower than the last time I was here.

There were several turtles out (second photo).

One one tree, I saw some white foamy looking stuff (third photo). It reminded me of spray foam insulation. Not sure what it was. I was thinking it was some kind of egg case but my web searching showed nothing similar. Now I'm thinking that the crack in the bark might indicate that it came from the tree.

The first part of the trip wasn't all that least not as nice as I remembered. But eventually, the water got deeper and narrower, making it much more enjoyable.

We watched a great blue heron catching fish. See fourth photo. We also saw a green heron and what I think is a prothonotary warbler. No eagles.

I wanted to see if we could get to Goose Pond. We could not.

The area around the creek is all part of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge so it is undeveloped and very natural. See fifth photo. At first, it was all tree-lined and green. But the further downstream we got, the more dead trees we saw (sixth and seventh photo). I didn't remember this from the last time I was here.

We pulled ashore at Foord's Landing (eighth photo). This is a relatively new launch site. We ate lunch here. Daphne found what we think are remnants of turtle egg shells and chewed on them.

I spoke to a couple of birders who said things changed about three years ago when the area downstream of Foord's Landing got dredged. Then things became tidal. The increase in salinity killed hundreds of trees. Why was this done?
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is embarking on a large tidal marsh restoration project, one of the largest ever in the eastern U.S. The project will restore a highly damaged tidal marsh/barrier beach ecosystem covering about 4000 acres within the former freshwater impoundment system on the refuge. This coastal wetland restoration improves the ability of the refuge marshes to withstand future storms and sea level rise and improves habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
- from Prime Hook - Marsh Restoration

The three of us started heading back upstream with the wind to our backs.

I saw a belted kingfisher (ninth photo). These rarely pose for pictures for I was very fortunate.

Having gotten up so early, we were both tired, especially me. So we took a siesta on the boat. I had a good nap but my legs were an easy target for mosquitoes.

Sometimes Daphne would stand on the platform I made for her that rests right behind me on the tandem. But this means she sometimes gets a few drips of water on her from my paddle. She much prefers sitting between Norma's legs. I don't know if it is because she stays drier, because she feels safer, or because she just likes being near Norma. Probably all three. See tenth and eleventh photos.

Near the launch site, it was still too shallow to paddle so we walked in. See twelfth and thirteenth photos. I saw a lot of blue crabs and some small fish.

We kayaked about 8.5 miles.

I spoke to a fellow that resides at campground who said it hasn't rained in three weeks and farmers are taking water from the creek for irrigation. That is why the water is so shallow near launch area.

If I return to kayak on this creek, I expect I will launch at Foord's Landing and then explore both upstream and downstream so I can avoid the shallow muddy areas closer to Brumbley and also see the dredged sections.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Norma, Daphne, and I started heading to our campsite. Along the way, we stopped in Georgetown, Delaware for dinner at the Brick Restaurant and Tavern (built in 1836) which has dog-friendly outdoor seating. Near our table, about 18 inches above the ground on a column support, I spotted what I believe is a little brown bat. It was about two inches long. If you hate mosquitos, then this is an animal you should love.
The bat typically consumes half its body weight in insects every night.
- from Chesapeake Bay Program - Little Brown Bat

If you've seen bats, then this is one you've probably seen before, though not as close as my encounter at the restauant.
The Little Brown Bat is the one that people are the most familiar with. There are more of them in the United States and Canada than of other species combined of bats.
- from Batworlds - Little Brown Bat

My pictures:
  • First photo: You can see all ten toes.
  • Second photo: No, it wasn't dead. It did move a bit and I could see it breathing.
  • Third photo: In this picture, you can actually see its thumbnails.

  • After seeing the bat's thumbs, I told Norma about the convergent evolution between bats and some winged prehistoric reptiles.
    ...the pterosaurs flight ability resembles bats more than birds in a variety of ways. First, they did not appear to have had feathers. Instead, they probably used a membrane of skin to form their wings much the way bats do.
    Bats use fingers 2-4 (index through pinkie) for flight, and finger 1 (the thumb) for limited gripping. Pterosaurs only had four fingers, and only finger 4 was used for flight, whereas fingers 1-3 were used for gripping.

    - from Christopher Eppig - The Evolution of Flight
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    The three of us checked in at Trap Pond State Park. We had a nice campsite at D8 with plenty of dog neighbors.

    We could hear music from the other side of the pond. This is part of their summer concert series. We walked over to listen. Then we walked the 0.6 mile Island Trail.

    The campground was pretty crowded but despite all the people and dogs, things were pretty quiet. The loudest noise late at night was all the frogs croaking.

    Day Two, Sunday, July 8, 2018

    We slept in. I walked over a small wooden bridge and saw a few dozen baby catfish below. Each was about 1.5 inches long. See first, second, and third photos, first column.

    Next, we embarked on a hike around the perimeter loop of the park. Most of this is on the Bob (Loblolly) Trail.

    We passed by several ponds, some of which were covered with duckweed (fourth photo, first column).
    Many kinds of ducks consume duckweed and often transport it to other bodies of water. Duckweed colonies provide habitats for micro invertebrates, but if duckweed completely covers the surface of a pond for an extended period of time, it will cause oxygen depletion. These colonies will also eliminate submerged plants by blocking sunlight penetration.
    - from AquaPlant - Common Duckweed

    The temperature was great for a hike and Daphne loved running off leash, which we deemed appropriate after we got away from the campground.

    At the east end of the park, we came to the restored Bethesda Church, built in 1879. See fifth photo, first column. Next to it is a cemetery where 100 members of the community are laid to rest. See sixth photo, first column.

    What I did not expect to find near the church was a very nice restroom. I don't believe that was there when I visited previously.

    I saw a frog at the top of the church door that crawled into the gap between the door and the frame when I tried to take its picture.

    Just west of the church on the south side of Wootten Road is Raccoon Pond. On our next trip, I'd like to explore this scenic pond. See first and second photo, second column.

    On the northwest side of the Wootten Road bridge over the pond, there was some rip rap providing a nice, warm, sunny surface. This attracted four northern water snakes. One slithered into the water before I got a good look at it. Two others remained in the rocks. At least one of these appeared quite large for this type of snake...over four feet long! See third and fourth photo, second column. Norma saw one snake I did not see, making a total of four.

    Also on the rip rap was a dragonfly. Dragonflies are supposed to have four wings. But this one has eight?! See fifth photo, second column. is an illusion created by its shadow.

    Next we walked on the Huckleberry Trail. This wasn't maintained as well as the other trails. Not as scenic either and there were biting flies. Probably should have just stayed on the Bob Trail which went along the south side of the pond.

    There were frogs/toads all over the place. Many were only an inch long (sixth photo, second column). Daphne didn't see most of them but sometimes one would jump out and startle her. Of course she would want to sniff anything she found.

    We stopped in at the Baldcypress Nature Center where we learned about the park.
    Trap Pond is not a natural pond - they're actually quite rare in Delaware. In the late 1700s, mill operators dammed up small streams to create the pond, and built a wooden spillway to supply water power to run a grist and saw mill.
    The pond and the surrounding landscape have changed dramatically in response to decades of baldcypress harvesting, farming, residential development, and park expansion.
    Trap Pond State Park is one of the largest remaining parts of what was once an extensive wetland in southwestern Sussex County. It is a critical wetland ecosystem for the flora and fauna that depend on a healthy semi-aquatic environnment.

    - from information sign at Nature Center

    At the park store, Norma bought a Snickers, partly because instead of "Snickers," it had the name of our town (seventh photo, second column).
    We walked 6.5 miles.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    We packed up our gear then took a siesta under a tree near the nature center.

    Next, we drove to Trussum Pond. I remember this as being the most scenic pond in the Maryland/Delaware area and certainly the most beautiful within two hours of Savage. I was hoping it still lived up to my expectation.
    ...this is the closest thing to a bayou in Delaware...Trussum is more of a swamp than a pond. Graceful cypress protrude everywhere from its black, lily pad dappled waters...

    Though I've never been to Louisiana, I expect it would look like Trussum Pond (first photo, first column).
    Tranquil waters trapped by a grist mill dam in the early nineteenth century made Trussum Pond a haven for the baldcypress. However, the trees now seen dotting the pond's surface are all that remain of a once extensive prehistoric wetland.
    Trussum Pond's unique panorama of old cypress knees, large bottom tree trunks, and stumps reminds visitors of areas of the deep south.

    - from information sign at launch area

    If you like calm water, and tall trees in a swamp-like atmosphere, this is the place for you. See second and third photos, first column.

    Two things there were no shortage of are turtles and dragonflies. Sometimes they appeared together (fourth photo, first column) though I don't think this turtle was very happy about being a landing pad.

    There were all different kinds of dragonflies. Some were red (fifth photo, first column). Others were black, white, green, or blue. I don't think I've ever seen so many before in such a small area.

    More beautiful scenery (sixth photo, first column). With so many trees growing out of the water, it was like kayaking through a maze of greenery.

    It used to be that Daphne would never relax when she was on the water. She was always standing. It wasn't until June 13, 2018 that she would actually lie down. But today, she actually fell asleep! See seventh photo, first column. If that isn't relaxed, then I don't know what is.

    We saw several baldcypress trees and their knees. See first photo, second column. The function of their knees is unknown.

    There were more turtles than we could count. But we did see one that was in a most unusual position. It was in a tree. See second photo, second column. We thought it might be dead or perhaps stuck. But as we approached, it freed itself and dropped into the water.

    There were several tiger swallowtails around a buttonbush. See third photo, second column. Perhaps this is a good thing to plant near the wet area in our back yard.

    We were there in the early afternoon. The lighting was very dramatic in some areas (fourth photo, second column).

    More greenage: fifth and sixth photos, second column.

    Turtles we saw ranged from 3.5 inch long shells to 14 inches. Here are some of the larger ones (seventh photo, second column).

    We were out for about an hour and 45 minutes but only paddled 1.7 miles. This is the kind of place you want to paddle very slowly to take it all in. Was it as nice as I remember? Absolutely. Norma was equally as impressed.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    We had some time so we decided to end our time at the park with a 0.75 mile hike on the Cypress Point Trail. This is one we had actually hiked before though neither of us remember it very well. Trap Pond State Park is rated the "prettiest hike for your dog" in Delaware and this trail is specifically mentioned.
    The atmospheric swamp of the Cypress Point Trail will make your dog feel more like she is in the Louisiana bayous than southern Delaware.
    - from Doggin' Delaware

    The trail was indeed nice but it was nothing compared to the scenery on Trussum Pond.

    We drove to Denton and ate at Market Street Pub. There were two other dogs there. Good food...not great but good. But it is worth visiting for the nice dog-friendly atmosphere.

    My GPS had us drive on route 309 northwest from route 404 so I got to see the flagpole with the chicken on top which always puts a smile on my face.

    There was slow traffic on Kent Island but that's to be expected on Sunday evening. Could have been a lot worse.

    Like our first time here, we had a great time. Hopefully it won't be another nine years before we return again. When we do, I'd like to paddle Trap Pond and Raccoon Pond. On the way to or from Trap Pond State Park, I'd like to paddle Chicone Creek, launching from Vienna. Maybe we can get good friends with kayaking experience to join us.