Kayaking in the Great Marsh Preserve

Just north of Lewes is an amazing place, where bird song and tranquility dominate your senses. I’m talking about the Great Marsh Preserve — 17 thousand acres of coastal wetland near the mouth of the Delaware Bay at Broadkill River. The preserve is adjacent to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. We visited in mid-October, after the summer migratory fowl had left for the season, but before most of the winter migratory fowl had arrived.

Still, the marsh was noisy with birdsong and activity. We saw numerous red-wing black birds and king fishers, several heron and egrets, and on our last day, we spotted two eagles.

One of Delaware’s few remaining wetlands, the Great Marsh Preserve offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a variety of unique local fauna and wildlife. From towering pines, oaks, tulip poplars to a variety of long grasses, all home to a variety of bird such as red-wing blackbirds, wading birds such as egrets and heron, hawks, falcons, jays and kingfishers, and bald eagles.

Its vast natural network of waterways and inlets provide excellent fishing, bird watching, kayaking, and even hiking. It’s really close to Lewes Beach and Cape Henlopen State Park, and well worth its own exploration — it’s a wonderful place to visit if you’re planning a daytrip to Lewes or if you’re staying close by.

We spent three days paddling around the Great Marsh Preserve in mid-October, experiencing its moody and surreal landscape at water level in late afternoon and at sunrise. Due to a nor’easter making its way north, the water level was about four feet higher than normal, but as the weekend progressed, the water levels lowered to normal levels.

Although we launched directly from the Lazy L Bed and Breakfast Inn, which is located on the shores of the Great Marsh Preserve, there are other access points. Visitors staying at the bed and breakfast are able to rent kayaks from Quest Kayaks directly from the inn.

I’ve got to say, kayaking in the Great Marsh Preserve reveals another world – a fascinating and complex ecology governed by the ancient forces of its tides. To experience this marsh is to experience a disappearing landscape — less than half of Delaware’s original wetlands still exist.

We noticed several kingfishers, all nattering at us with annoyance for invading their space. We also saw numerous great blue heron, all keeping their distance and occasionally squawking at as they flew gracefully away. As we explored various inlets, we started several groups of ducks of one sort or another.

On our final paddle, early Sunday morning, we were startled by two majestic bald eagle, flying from a tree so close to us we could hear the air against their immense wings. I’d never seen a bald eagle in the wild so close, and the size of their wing span was impressive.

As we returned to the Lazy L at Willow Creek, we saw the two eagles again, perched high up above the bed and breakfast.

Getting there: 1 Great Marsh Cir, Lewes, DE 19958

Website: http://paddlecoastaldelaware.com/

Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.