Experience the Charm of Delaware's State Parks with This Must-See List

Click here to access Delaware's 17 state parks as of 2008, all of which are under the care and supervision of Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, operating under the purview of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). First State Heritage Park is an exception managed through a partnership between the Division of Parks and Recreation and several other state and city entities.

All three of Delaware's counties are home to at least one state park, with New Castle boasting the highest number. Despite being "administratively managed" as a single unit, Wilmington State Parks are broken down into various smaller parks. Equipped with over 26,000 acres of land and 160 miles of trails, Delaware boasts state park land that permits faint Milky Way sightseeing from 10 out of 17 parks.

Delaware State Parks won the award for the best state parks system, the Gold Medal, from the National Recreation and Park Association in 2015. This honor is awarded annually since 1997, with Delaware proving victorious, beating out Georgia, Missouri, and Wyoming.

Delaware's Cape Henlopen State Park, dating back to 1682, is the oldest public park to date, dedicated by then-Proprietor William Penn upon his arrival. William Poole Bancroft made great strides towards formally developing a public parks system, conserving beautiful landscapes, donating land, and creating a trust to acquire land and create more parks following his death.

The northern region of Delaware boasts several state parks that were once either partially or wholly owned by the estates of Du Pont family members. These properties were acquired by the state after the passing of the owners. Other state parks located throughout Delaware were once former military installations that were designated surplus property.

Protecting valuable pieces of the historic Brandywine River, northern Delaware's Alapocas Run, Brandywine Creek, and Wilmington state parks serve as sanctuaries for the heavily utilized waterway once relied upon by local industry. On the other hand, southern Delaware's state parks including Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, Fenwick Island, and Holts Landing, preserve stretches of breathtaking ocean and bay beaches, which are extremely popular during the summer months.

Blueball Dairy barn side Wilmington DE.JPG

A comprehensive list of Delaware state parks and their relevant details can be found below:

  • Name
  • County
  • Size
  • Established
  • Image
  • Remarks
  • Alapocas Run
  • New Castle
  • 415 acres (168 ha) [5]
  • 2002

The park safeguards a part of the Brandywine River and connects to Wilmington and Brandywine Creek State Parks through an extensive trail network. The Blue Ball Barn situated within it was originally constructed in 1914 by Alfred I. du Pont and currently houses the Delaware Folk Art Collection.

Bellevue Trail.JPGIsrael Marshall House Auburn Mills DE.jpg

Auburn Valley

New Castle

452 acres (183 ha) [6][7]

Located in the city of Yorklyn.

Information from "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Delaware_state_parks".

In the year of 2008, visitors can explore the former residence of the Marshall family. It comprises of the Auburn Heights Mansion, built in 1897, a unique example of charming architectural design. The property also boasts the Marshall Steam Museum's collection, which features an impressive array of antique steam-powered vehicles.

Brandywine Creek State Park farm.jpg

Bellevue, located in New Castle across 328 acres, was established in 1976. The area formerly belonged to William du Pont, Jr., who resided here with his family. It includes top-notch tennis courts, a horse racing barn, and several other recreational areas. Bellevue Hall, an imitation of James Madison's Montpelier, is where du Pont spent his childhood days.

WWII towers at Gordon's Pond.jpg

Brandywine Creek, established in New Castle across 933 acres in 1965, has a rich history. A significant portion of the park belonged to Henry A. du Pont's Winterthur estate, where farming activities took place from the 1870s to the 1920s. The park's remaining portion associated with protecting land along the Brandywine was preserved by William Poole Bancroft and his Woodlawn Trustees. The park boundaries neighbor First State National Historical Park.

Delaware Beaches State Park.jpg

Cape Henlopen, situated in Sussex and authorized in 1964, spreads across 5,320 acres. It's a historical site that was once an important component of the country's defense mechanism during World War II. The property features several towers and is identified for its surreal scenery.

Fenwickbeach.JPG

The grand Delaware state park encompasses the remnants of Fort Miles from the Second World War. You will spot the famed observation towers all over the cape's beaches, which feature on both the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. You can also witness the spectacular National Harbor of Refuge and Delaware Breakwater Harbor Historic District along with two of its lighthouses from the park's beaches.

Delaware State Capitol.jpg

Sussex County in Delaware is the home of the sprawling 2,825 acres Delaware Seashore state park, established in the year 1965. The park is stretched along the oceans of the Atlantic and Rehoboth Bay and preserves the remarkable Indian River Life Saving Service Station.

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The stunning Fenwick Island state park, covering 379 acres, was established in the year 1966. It was previously known as the southern section of Delaware Seashore state park, but was separated in 1981 to become its entity.

Fort DuPont Parade Grounds.JPG

The 2004 established First State Heritage park in Kent County showcases urban landscapes seamlessly blending city culture with heritage sites of Dover. It is conceptualized as an urban park with no defined boundaries.

Fort Delaware State Park, located in New Castle, covers 288 acres (117 ha) and dates back to 1951. The park ensures the preservation of Pea Patch Island, which sits in the middle of the Delaware River, and boasts a historic Civil War fortress where prisoners of war were kept.

Fox Point Delaware River 01.JPG

Fort DuPont State Park comes in at 322 acres (130 ha) and was established in 1992 in New Castle. The former military base, named after Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, was operational from the Civil War through World War II and protects land stretching along the Delaware River and Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

Murderkill River.jpgHolts Landing Pier.jpg

Fox Point State Park, also in New Castle, covers 108 acres (44 ha) and was created in 1995 from a former brownfield site along the Delaware River. It has since been cleaned up and now offers trails and various recreational activities.

Lums Pond State Park table.jpg

Finally, Holts Landing State Park, situated in Sussex, is a must-visit for all nature lovers. Set up in an area covering unspoiled wetlands and forests, it is the perfect spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Covering a sprawling 206 acres (83 ha), this land was first utilized as a farm and boat ramp fashioned by the Holts Family. Nowadays, it exists as Killens Pond, located in Kent and established in 1965. It holds 1,488 acres (602 ha) of parkland and contains a multitude of exciting features such as hiking trails, campgrounds, and a water park. Its centerpiece is a 66-acre millpond and bygone remnants of the park’s heritage still permeate throughout. Likewise, Lums Pond, situated in New Castle, triumphs as the largest freshwater pond in Delaware, with over 1,790 acres (720 ha) of space, established in 1963. Its purpose was once to supply water for the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, showcasing Lums Pond's integral role in the region's history. Today, it's possible to enjoy an exhilarating zip-line course amidst the pond's historic ambience. A standout park is Trap Pond, established in Sussex way back in 1951, covering a staggering 3,653 acres (1,478 ha) and preserving the northernmost expanses of baldcypress trees in the eastern United States. Finally, we have White Clay Creek - a veritable wonderland, claiming 3,600 acres across New Castle. Its forested valley, stretching to the state’s border, plays host to a rich variety of plant and wildlife species, making it a must-visit attraction for those seeking a natural retreat.

Brandywine Park Blossoms.JPGWhite Clay Creek State Park - Bryan's Field trailhead.jpgBald Cypress.JPG

In 1968, White Clay Creek State Park was established, spanning over 3,398 acres (1,375 ha), preserving the area surrounding the White Clay Creek National Scenic & Recreational River. It neighbors Pennsylvania's White Clay Creek Preserve and is situated in Wilmington, Delaware.

Wilmington State Parks was formed in 1998, covering 345 acres (140 ha). It comprises several smaller parks and protects land along the Brandywine River in the center of Wilmington. The Brandywine Park, Brandywine Zoo, H. Fletcher Brown Park, and Rockford Park fall under this category.

Brandywine Springs State Park, which was operational from 1956 until being decommissioned in 1970, was named after the site of a former Revolutionary War encampment and later an amusement park. It was then taken over by New Castle County to function as a county park.

For further information, refer to the "See also," "External links," and "References" sections.

References for more information on Delaware State Parks programming, Cape Henlopen State Park's 50th anniversary, state parks' light pollution map and statistics, Delaware State Parks' recognition as the top state parks system in the country, and the historical analysis and map of vegetation communities, land covers, and habitats of Alapocas Run State Park can be found in the following links:

  • - "Delaware State Parks Programming - Spring Guide" (PDF) by Delaware State Parks (archived from the original PDF on March 29, 2015)
  • - "Cape Henlopen State Park to Celebrate its 50th Anniversary" by Delaware State Parks
  • - "State Parks Light Pollution Map And Statistics" by CosmosPNW
  • - "Delaware State Parks honored as top state parks system in nation by winning NRPA gold medal" by Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
  • - "Historical Analysis and Map of Vegetation Communities, Land Covers, and Habitats of Alapocas Run State Park" (PDF) by University of Delaware (archived from the original PDF on October 5, 2015)

Discover more about the expansion of the Auburn Valley State Park, with additional land spanning 86 acres, as reported by Delaware Business Now. Shawn Weigel uncovers Delaware's "best kept secret," the Auburn Heights area, in an enlightening piece for the Hockessin Community News. Robert Coxe delves into the historical analysis and mapping of vegetation communities, land covers, and habitats of various state parks, including Fenwick Island, Fox Point, Trap Pond, White Clay Creek, and Wilmington. The Delaware Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Summer Guide of 2015 offers a comprehensive breakdown of park programs, activities, and events. Finally, learn more about the illustrious history of Delaware State Parks in an archived article from Delaware State Parks: Highlights of History.

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