Where it’s wild in Wilmington, DE


The modern DuPont Environmental Education Center overlooks the 212-acre wildlife refuge named for Delaware’s Gov. Russell W. Peterson.


Before you even get to the DuPont center, the gardens are a gorgeous welcome to the area.

Red-winged blackbirds flew by, their red patches flashing in the sun. Canada geese sailed serenely on the pond fringed with cattails. We can see the skyline of downtown Wilmington, Delaware, from here. But it’s as if we are miles and miles away.

The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge offers a 212-acre getaway for both animal and human. Set at the southern edge of Wilmington’s Riverfront, it has a pond loop, a beautiful garden, and the DuPont Environmental Education Center‘s exhibits and programming.


A pond on the site gives children a place to get really close to the refuge’s denizens.

During our visit, a small group of kayakers pulled their boats from the Christina River and a cluster of happy children leaned over the pond’s edge to dip their nets in the water. The Netting in the Marsh program occurs at 2 pm. Tuesdays through Sundays one of the regular free walk-in programs, which also include lunch with live animals on Saturdays and Meet Marsh Animals at 3 p.m. everyday the center is open. (It’s closed Mondays) “Just show up” the handout says: and families do.

The refuge offers all kinds of programs, too: river cruises, crafts, canoeing, nature programming and photography.


You never know what you’ll find along the Wilmington Riverfront. We saw the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the ship that brought Delaware’s first settlers.

After lunch at the Iron Hill Brewery — one of a number of good restaurants along the Riverfront — we walked along the river, enjoying the views as we strolled. We caught a glimpse of the Kalmar Nickel as it cruised to its dock. It didn’t take long to get to the refuge— it’s not quite a mile along a flat, paved walkway.


Take a look out over the marsh from the DuPont Center then get out and walk the quarter-mile trail.

The last time I was here, it was winter. I hadn’t seen the gardens that welcome visitors to the refuge. I hadn’t seen the cattails or the birds or the acres and acres of green space.



A touch screen inside the DuPont center shows the history of the riverfront — including its contributions during World War II.

So on this visit, I was dazzled by it all. The views from  the DuPont Center’s third-floor deck were a delight. I knew I just had to get down there and walk around the pond. It’s only a quarter-mile. An easy walk and a slow one if you want to admire your surroundings, breathe in the fresh air and listen to the birds singing.

I was amazed to be immersed in such a beautiful, wild land, steps from the center of Delaware’s largest city. A map would show me right in the middle of town. But my eyes told me otherwise. I had left the hustle and bustle of Wilmington behind for the peaceful oasis of the Peterson Refuge. I hated to leave.


So close and yet so far away: the busy streets of Wilmington.




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