Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge


The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 primarily to preserve coastal wetlands as wintering and breeding habitat for migratory waterfowl. It is located on the west shore of Delaware Bay, approximately 22 miles southeast of Dover, the State capital, and 64 miles southeast of Wilmington, Delaware.

The refuge consists of 8,817 acres, approximately 6,800 acres of which are fresh marsh, tidal marsh, and water. Other habitat includes 850 acres of timber and brush and 1,100 acres of grasslands and croplands. 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 leave a portion of the crop in the field to provide supplemental food and cover for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Wildlife Calendar

The varied marsh habitat of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge provides homes for numerous species of birds, mammals, fishes, reptiles, and amphibians.

Spectacular concentrations of migrating waterfowl can be observed during certain periods in the spring and fall. Shorebird watching is especially good during the last weeks of May during horseshoe crab breeding season.

Migrations through the refuge provide an excellent opportunity for nature study. Fall concentrations of Canada geese, snow geese, black ducks, mallards, and wood ducks are of particular interest. Many waterfowl winter on the refuge. A variety of herons, shorebirds, terns, and songbirds provide additional interesting observations. May is the best time for viewing shorebirds and warblers. Several species of waterfowl and other waterbirds commonly nest in the marshes.

Spring is the best time for observing reptiles and amphibians. The most frequently sighted wetland species are the red-bellied and painted turtles, while various frog species such as spring peeper, cricket, and bull frogs can be heard and sometimes seen. Upland species frequently spotted are garter and black rat snakes, red-backed salamander, American and fowler toads, and the less commonly seen fence lizard. A list of reptiles and amphibians using the refuge is available at headquarters.

Public Use

Hunting: Hunting of waterfowl, deer, upland game birds, and small game is permitted within season. Special regulations apply for these hunts, and such information is available from the refuge headquarters.

Fishing: Tidal waterways and Turkle and Fleetwood Ponds are open to sport fishing in accordance with State and Federal regulations. Largemouth bass, pickerel, white perch and crappies are most sought after and abundant. Favorite fishing sites are Prime Hook Creek, Petersfield Ditch, Turkle Pond, and Fleetwood Pond. Boats using Turkle and Fleetwood Ponds may only be propelled manually or with electric motors.

Canoeing and Boating: Canoe enthusiasts have over 15 miles of streams and ditches to enjoy. Favorite routes are along Prime Hook Creek, Petersfield Ditch and Slaughter Creek. Boating is permitted in tidal waters and Turkle and Fleetwood Ponds in accordance with State and Federal regulations. Several boat launching ramps are available to provide convenient access. These are delineated on maps available at headquarters.

Wildlife Observation and Photography: Two trails and four State highways which transect the refuge afford the visitor an ideal opportunity to observe and photograph a variety of wildlife and plants. Please remember that the taking of any plant or animal without a permit is prohibited. Many species may be observed relatively undisturbed in their natural habitat.

Contacts and Links

Refuge Manager
Prime Hook
National Wildlife Refuge
RD #3, Box 195
Milton, Delaware 19968
Phone: (302) 684-8419

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 13 Sep 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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