Paradise on the marsh: New Bayshore venue offers scenic viewing

18dsn outdoors Bayshore viewing by .

Birders enjoy views from the platform Thousand Acre Marsh off Del. 9. (Outdoor Delaware/Anthony Gonzon)

It’s wintertime. Although many of us tend to gravitate to the warmth of the indoors, we should be outdoors enjoying fresh air, appreciating beautiful winter vistas and marveling at the abundance of wildlife along the Delaware Bayshore.

Hunters and birders know this all too well.

But for those who tend to hibernate, maybe we can entice you to visit a new venue for wildlife and scenic viewing along the Bayshore.

Thousand Acre Marsh — the state’s largest freshwater wetland — is located along Del. 9 between Delaware City and Port Penn.

Throughout the winter, the marsh has long been known as a place to find waterfowl such as American black duck and northern pintail, as well as bald eagles and other wintering raptors.

Until now, much of the area was difficult to appreciate because viewing areas were limited to the shoulder of roadways bordering the marsh.

With the help of two grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife recently protected more than 330 acres along the southern portion of the marsh.

These newly protected acres comprise the “Ashton Tract,” a unit of the Augustine Wildlife Area. The Ashton Tract is bordered by Del. 9 — now known as the Delaware Bayshore Byway — and provides a place to safely view and learn about the wildlife and habitats characteristic of the Bayshore Byway and Thousand Acre Marsh.

Because of the connection to the byway, the Division was able to secure another grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Scenic Byway Program to help fund the development of a short walking path and a wildlife-viewing platform overlooking the marsh.

To visit the Ashton Tract, travel about one-half mile west of Route 9 on Thorntown Road to the Ashton Tract’s entrance road. A parking lot is located at the end of the half-mile entrance road.

A short stone-dust trail connects the parking lot to the viewing platform.

The structure has two levels. The top level provides accessible, unobstructed viewing. A few steps down, a lower deck provides an area to set up spotting scopes and cameras.

Each deck has a bench for relaxing and enjoying the spectacular views. In addition to the trail and platform, interpretive signs have been added to raise awareness about the area’s wildlife and habitats, as well as the restoration and management work underway to protect the area’s wetlands, forest and fields.

Restoration and habitat management by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife will continue to improve conditions for a variety of birds and other wildlife in Thousand Acre Marsh.

We hope you will visit and experience first-hand how the marsh changes, and to see and hear different birds using this special wetland.

Karen Bennett is administrator of the Outreach, Licensing and Grants Management Section of DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife. This article first appeared in Outdoor Delaware magazine.

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