The Bear Swamp Trail was constructed in 1961 and is located on the south end of Bear Swamp. Bear Swamp is the name given to the wetland area beyond the dike, according to early records. Bears no longer live in Delaware; the last recorded sighting was in 1905.
This is a short loop trail with several resting benches and a 30-foot observation tower overlooking the 240-acre Bear Swamp Pool.
An accompanying brochure trail tells the story of forest succession, resulting in a variety of plants thus a variety of habitats supporting resident and migratory wildlife.
Ferns are common along the trail due to ideal growing conditions. Species include bracken, royal, cinnamon, New York, lady's sensitive, and marsh fern.
In the spring, water levels are lowered at Bear Swamp Pool to promote desirable plant growth. Migrating shorebirds are attracted to the warmer, shallow water and to the newly created mudflats. In the fall, water levels are raised by rainfall. Arriving waterfowl respond to these conditions and to the seed-bearing plants, which eventually become a winter food source. From the observation tower, you're likely to spot snowy egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, and black-crowned night herons. This is also a popular spot for view migrating snow geese. In addition, look for the muskrat houses scattered across the salt marsh.
During the fall hunting season, you may see grass-covered water blinds, used by Young Waterfowlers. Under this program, youths aged 12 to 18 are taught hunting safety, ethics, regulations, and waterfowl identification before participating in a refuge.
On the return loop, look for reptiles and amphibians lurking amid the small pond.
Directions from Smyrna, DE: Take Smyrna-Leipsic Road east for 5 miles until it merges with Route 9. Head north and travel about 1-2 miles turning right onto Dutch Neck Road. Follow past the historic home coming to Bear Swamp Road. A large parking lot marks the trailhead.