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The 12-mile round-trip auto tour, along with several trails, provides opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife. Three of the trails have 30-foot observation towers and near the completion of the drive, a historic home is open for tours during spring and fall weekends. Please note that walkers use this road as well as cars.

Begin the tour along Whitehall Neck Road in front of the Visitor Center where you'll want to pick up the brochure that corresponds with the numbered signs along the route.

At Tour Stop 1, you'll learn about the early history of the area dating back to the 17th century. You'll also be enlightened about the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps' instrumental development of the wildlife habitats.

Tour Stop 2, speaks about the cooperative farming methods used at Bombay to benefit both the community and the refuge. Notice the gray-green tower, a lookout used when geese are captured for banding.

Between Stops 2 and 3, is the 0.25-mile Boardwalk Trail that passes through four different refuge habitats. It takes about half hour to walk.

Tour Stop 3 offers sights of the freshwater impoundments used to manipulate water levels, a key ingredient for creating necessary habitats.

Shearness Pool marks Tour Stop 4. It is the largest of the four freshwater impoundments and is frequented by bald eagles.

Beautiful panoramas are visible from Tour Stop 5. The tidal salt marsh supplies organic materials for the food chain, circulates nutrients, provides nesting habitat for waterfowl and serves as a nursery area for fish. A variety of waterfowl nest in the marsh including black ducks, mallards, gadwalls, and blue-winged teal. More than 100,000 snow geese migrate through the area every year.

At Tour Stop 6, drivers can see the wildlife food plot planted with bicolor lespedeza. This food plot and others consisting of buckwheat, millet, or autumn olive serve as a supplemental natural food source.

Between Tour Stops 6 and 7, is the 0.25-mile Bear Swamp Trail located on the south end of Bear Swamp Pool. It was constructed in 1961 to provide shorebirds and waterfowl a place to rest, feed, and nest.

Tour Stop 7 is named Loafing Area. Throughout the summer, a variety of wading birds "loaf" in Bear Swamp Pool. You're likely to spot snowy egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, and black-crowned night herons. During the fall hunting season, you may see grass-covered water blinds, used by Young Waterfowlers. Under this program, youths aged 12 to 18 are taught hunting safety, ethics, regulations, and waterfowl identification before participating in a refuge hunt.

A bird banding area marks Tour Stop 8. Visible is the corn crib used to store feed during the banding season. An interesting note about the crib; the concrete base was once the floor of the Civilian Conservation Corps' dining hall. Notice the bluebird boxes. Nearly 50 boxes around the refuge fledge between 80 and 90 bluebirds each year.

Tour Stop 9 points out the agricultural fields that are on a crop rotation schedule. These upland areas of the refuge are perfect habitat for a variety of mammals and birds including red fox, skunk, white-tailed deer, rabbit, pheasant, and bobwhite.

At Tour Stop 10, look beyond the water to the 410 acres of woodland. This is managed habitat for a variety of plant life and wildlife. Sweet gum, white oak and black tupelo are the larger trees in these woods. American holly, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, ground pine, and ground cedar also grow here.

A small land depression is seen at Tour Stop 11. It is one of a series of units being created throughout the refuge to provide wetland habitat diversity.

History is highlighted at Tour Stop 12. Allee House is a small country-style farmhouse of the Queen Anne period built around 1753. As a National Historic Place, the home is open for tours weekends during the spring and fall seasons (2 - 5 PM). On specified days, this area is open to waterfowl and deer hunting on a permit basis.

The last stop is Tour Stop 13 at Finis Pool. Finis Pool contains the freshest water of any impoundment on the refuge. Beyond the pool is Finis Branch, the primary fresh water source for all impoundments. Beaver and muskrat can be spotted in this area as well as an occasional river otter. Barred owls, green backed and little blue herons have also thrilled the patient observer.

Elevation: 10 Feet

Elevation Gain: Minimal

Directions: From Dover, DE, Head north several miles on U.S. Highway 13. Turn right (east) onto State Route 42. Travel several more miles turning right (north) onto Route 9. Travel about 1 mile to Whitehall Neck Road. Turn right to reach the Refuge Headquarters / Visitor Center.

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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Smyrna, Delaware

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: (302) 653-6872
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.