Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Leipsic, Delaware

Webpage: National Wildlife Refuge

General Description: Getting its name from the corrupted Dutch “Boompjes Hoeck” meaning “little tree point”, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is 16,000 acres located on the east coast of Delaware Bay in Kent County, Delaware.  In 1682 a canal was dug between Delaware Bay and the town of Smyna, which became the Smyna River, a lighthouse was built in 1831 (later burned in 1970), and a hotel was built in 1848 making the island a popular resort area with regular steamboat access by 1870 to Philadelphia.   However, a severe storm in 1878 destroyed the hotel and breached the dunes protecting the inner marshes creating a tidal marsh that is the main feature today.  In 1937 the land was purchased to establish the Bombay Hook Migratory Waterfowl Refuge using duck stamp money and in 1938 the CCC cleared wooded swamps, built dikes to create Raymond and Shearness Pools, planted trees, built a headquarters building, marine railway, an observation tower, and houses for the manager and guardsman.  With a few minor additions, the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge has 1100 acres in four freshwater ponds within which the water levels can be controlled to enhance the wildlife (especially migratory birds) habitat.  Visitors can travel a 12 mile wildlife drive that provides access to 5 walking trials, 3 observation towers for wildlife viewing.  Special hunts are also organized to teach young adults hunting strategies and safety.



1) The Visitor Center is a small building housing a few wildlife exhibits and restrooms.  You can also obtain a map of the driving tour and a brochure giving more information at various stops along the tour.


2) The driving tour circles around each of the freshwater ponds where you can see many waterfowl, especially during the migrations in the spring and fall.


3) There is a bald eagle nest on the refuge and we were treated to watching a bald eagle on the ground in the distance.

4) The main draw of the refuge are the short walks (none over a mile) and observation towers.  From the heights of the towers you can see over the entire freshwater pond and interpretive signs give you clues what to look for and how to identify the species.


5) We saw a number of musckrat huts built out of grass dotting the freshwater and tidal pools.  We understood from the literature provided that they have an overpopulation of muskrats which I can believe based on the number of huts we saw.  Unfortunately, we did not see any muskrats.


6) On the property is also the Allee House built in 1753 by Abraham Allee, a Huguenot refugee from Artois, France.  It remains in nearly original condition, except you for the introduction of electricity and a AC window unit on the backside.  They give tours of the house on weekends during the summer.


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