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Five state parks help to get away from it all

Each of the county’s state parks offers plenty of picturesque wildlife.
When it comes to outdoor recreation, Sussex County is resplendent with beaches and associated watersports. It also is home to five state parks, providing an array of outdoor activities to suit varying interests. Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park, Holts Landing State Park and Fenwick Island State Park are on the eastern side of the county, along the Del. 1 corridor, while Trap Pond State Park is centrally located, near Laurel. Cape Henlopen State Park This is the largest of the state's beachfront parks. Cape Henlopen gives you access to the beach resort amenities that surround it, while offering a whole set of great things to do all on its own. Swimming, fishing, camping, bird-watching, nature programs, hiking, history and more are available activities for your family to enjoy when not simply lounging on one of the most picturesque beaches in Delaware. The campsites offer water hookups and are only three-quarters of a mile from the beach, so you can walk from your tent or recreational vehicle to the ocean. Coastal dunes, woodland trails, a fishing pier, a paved bike trail and the Seaside Nature Center and Aquarium make this more than just a beach vacation. It's a fun family destination to which you will want to return again and again. Want to wander a little? You are close to a full range of great resort amenities. A historic World War II fort is full of interesting things to explore. The observation towers, old bunkers and more give the impression that you are still under the protection of the war's coastal defense. Several large events every year bring more family fun to the beach. Look for information on the annual Great Delaware Kite Festival and the intense experience of the Halloween haunted trail. Cape Henlopen State Park is off Del. 9 in Lewes. Call (302) 645-8983 (state park), (302) 6452103 (campground) and (302) 644-5005 (Biden Environmental Training Center). Delaware Seashore State Park This is one of the most popular parks in the state. Delaware Seashore State Park is six miles of sand and sea. Actually, when you are at Delaware Seashore, you are flanked by the sea on one side and the bay on the other, making it impossible not to enjoy the shore no matter which direction you go. Swim in the ocean or the bay, or take the boat out from the marina for a fishing expedition. Picnic at the pavilions. Look for the various wildfowl on the trails, some of which wowd be endangered if not for the protective habitat offered at the park. Visit nearby attractions like the restored Indian River Lifesaving Station for a fun and educational experience. Don't forget to plan a day trip to Trap Pond, one of the other fabwous and close-by state parks. Camp in the modern family campground, where you can enjoy gorgeous beachfront sunsets within walking distance of your RV Delaware Seashore State Park is on Del. 1 south in Rehoboth Beach. Call (302) 227-2800 (state park), (302) 539-7202 (campground) or (302) 227-3071 (Indian River Marina). Fenwick Island State Park With three more miles of stretching beachfront parkland, this park offers a quieter, more natural experience for vacationers. Fenwick Island gives visitors ocean and bay access away from the crowds and commercialism of the larger resorts. Bring the family for a picnic in the shaded picnic areas. Or visit the concession stand to get great burgers, snacks, soft drinks and more. Rent a kayak or sailboat to enjoy the Assawoman Bay. Visit the nearby amenities in Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach, the "quiet resorts" of the Eastern Shore. Fenwick Island State Park is on Del. 1 south between the towns of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Call (302) 539-9060. Holts Landing State Park The smallest of Delaware's state parks, Holts Landing also is one of the state's best-kept secrets. Set on the Indian River, this old-fashioned family park in the center of the built-up tourist beaches makes a great alternative for those who remember life on the water before the crowds came or for those who just want to know what it was like. A crabbing pier, boat launch, clam beds, picnic tables, creeks to explore by kayak or canoe, an osprey trail and woodlands galore make this park a little piece of heaven on Earth. Holts Landing is on Del. 26, west of Bethany Beach. Call (302) 539-9060. Trap Pond State Park Allow yourself to be swept away by one of the most remote and unique parks in the state of Delaware. Canoe or kayak through the northernmost baldcypress preserve in the country. The trees, some of which are 600 years old, will surround you, giving you the feeling that you're on the bayou or in some exotic place far, far from home. Camp in the fully modern campground or, if you prefer to continue your hideaway adventure, choose one of the primitive sites instead. Picnic or go hiking, fishing or bird-watching. Take a guided pontoon boat tour through the wetland preserve or sign up to go canoeing underneath the full moon. A habitat for all kinds of wildlife, the extensive trails at Trap Pond allow hikers a bird's-eye view of beaver lodges, river otters, turtles and more. The native plants are in some cases so rare or endangered that they seem almost out of place in Delaware, yet it is because of Trap Pond and its commitment to conservation that these beautiful native species are still thriving on the banks of the baldcypress swamp. You, too, can feel the restorative power of Trap Pond State Park. Trap Pond is off Del. 24 in Laurel. Call (302) 875-5153 (state park), (302) 8752392 (campground) and (302) 875-5163 (Bald Cypress Nature Center). Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is about 10 miles north of Lewes. The 9,000-plusacre refuge protects critical wetlands, open and wooded uplands and estuarine areas along the Delaware Bay. More than 75,000 visitors come to the refuge each year to engage in bird-watching and to hunt, fish, canoe, boat and hike. The refuge is home of the endangered Delmarva Peninswa fox squirrel, which was reintroduced to the refuge in 1985 to expand the population of this native species. The refuge consists mostly of freshwater and tidal marshlands, and was originally established in 1963 to preserve coastal wetlands as wintering and breeding grounds for migrating Neotropical songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl, such as black ducks, wood ducks and snow geese. Hunting of waterfowl, deer, upland game birds and small game is permitted within season. Tidal waterways Turkle and Fleetwood ponds are open to sport fishing. In addition, Peters field Ditch and Slaughter Canal are popwar crabbing and fishing sites. Canoe enthusiasts have more than 15 miles of streams and ditches to enjoy. Several boat ramps are available. Four short and easy hiking trails and four state highways that transect the refuge afford the visitor an ideal opportunity to observe and photograph a variety of wildlife and plants. A visitor center opened in 1997 and contains wildlife displays, an auditorium and the Friends of Prime Hook sales outlet. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Volunteers staff the center on weekends from April 1 until Thanksgiving from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information, contact Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, RD 3, Box 195, Milton, DE 19968. Call 684-8419. Fax: 684-8504. E-mail fw5rw _phnwr@fws.gov.

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