Open to the Public
Explore the McCabe Nature Preserve on foot or by canoe. View All
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Spectacular in its own right, the Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve features a wide range of habitats, plants and animals within a relatively small pocket of the Delmarva Peninsula. While a roadside parking area provides access to hiking trails located on the preserve, arriving by canoe is the way to go for adventurous visitors. From two miles away in the historic town of Milton, explorers can put in their canoes and meander down the Broadkill River before heading ashore. Whether arriving by land or by river, visitors have the opportunity to really escape into a natural environment that gives true meaning to the word “preserve.”
The McCabe Nature Preserve is a place where a slow and steady approach has yielded long term returns for the Conservancy. Prior to ownership, material dredged from the river channel was deposited in a five-acre clearing located on the preserve. In 1996, Conservancy staff and volunteers planted this field with more than 2,000 native tree seedlings, including red and white oaks, green ash and black gum. Larger black cherry trees, indicative of earlier habitats, can be found near the center. Today, the emerging forest buffers sensitive wetland habitat from pollution and has begun welcoming an array of migratory songbirds.
Sussex County, near Milton
What’s At Stake
A wide range of Delaware's ecosystems, including tidal marshes, upland forests and Atlantic white cedar swamp. Marshes and wetlands provide important habitat for a number of rare and biologically important plants, including: Bluejoint, River bulrush, Seaside alder, Red maple, Sweet pepperbush, Spatterdock, Sweet flag, Swamp rose, Tulip poplar and White cedar. The diverse landscape also supports more than 100 species of migratory and nesting birds including waterfowl, raptors and songbirds. The highlight of the avian year is the passage of migratory songbirds on their way north in the spring.
While virtually all of the upland forests on the Delmarva Peninsula have been altered by repeated logging, the Conservancy's stewardship of this property is allowing the young woods on the preserve to naturally grow into mature forest.
Donated to the Conservancy in 1993 by Constance P. McCabe, who wished the property to be maintained in its natural state in perpetuity as a memorial to her late husband and grandson.
The Conservancy manages the preserve as a natural area, allowing controlled public use. Reforestation efforts over the years have improved habitat for many migratory songbirds and buffered sensitive wetlands from runoff.
The Milton-McCabe Preserve Greenway Trail links the historic town of Milton with the Conservancy’s Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve. Beginning at the Milton Memorial Park boat launch, a canoe trail winds two miles down the Broadkill River to the preserve. There it joins a three-mile hiking trail system. A roadside parking area provides access to the hiking trails for non-canoeists.
Canoeing the Broadkill River
Canoeing along the Broadkill offers a unique perspective on this important river corridor. Mixed hardwood and cedar forests line the river banks, flanked by a mosaic of agricultural lands. Large red maple, blackgum, sweetgum, loblolly pine, and occasional Atlantic white cedars overhang the river banks. Their brilliant fall foliage is a delight, and streamside forests serve important ecological functions — providing wildlife habitat, filtering storm water runoff and stabilizing riverbanks with vast root systems. Keen eyes will pick out large-mouth bass, bluegill and, in the spring, migrating river herring as these surface-feeding fish seek out insects. The majestic great blue heron, with its pale blue-gray color, sharp bill, long legs and six-foot wing span, is hard to miss as it glides above the river. In spring and early summer, watch for the golden head and breast of the prothonotary warbler perching on riverbank tree limbs.
Close to the preserve, the character of the river landscape begins to shift. Freshwater tidal marshes and scrub-shrub wetlands form broad transition zones between the river and its forested banks. The globally rare seaside alder is found here. While in flower in autumn, seaside alder is readily discernible from its common associate, smooth alder. Most of the world’s population of seaside alder are found on the Delmarva Peninsula.
In spring, listen for the distinctive croak of the green frog, twanging like a loose banjo string. This frog depends on shallow freshwater habitats along the Broadkill. Approximately two miles downriver of the put-in at Milton Memorial Park, look for the McCabe Nature Preserve canoe dock on the south side of the river. Please tie your boat up and come ashore.
Hiking the McCabe Nature Preserve
Just minutes from Milton, the Conservancy’s Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve is a pastoral 143-acre refuge. Hiking around the preserve will reveal upland forests, swamp forests, tidal marsh and scrub-shrub wetlands, and a restoration area. Don't forget the trail map.
To the Canoe Trail Put-in at the Milton Memorial Park
The canoe trail parking area and boat ramp are located at Milton Memorial Park in the town of Milton. There is a canoe dock at the McCabe preserve where you may secure your canoe while you hike the preserve's trails.
- From Wilmington, Delaware (approx. 1.5 hours): Follow State Route 1 (SR 1) south, past Milford. Bear right on SR 5, heading south toward Milton. SR 5 turns into Union Street. Follow Union Street into Milton. Turn left onto Chandler Road. Take first right into the parking area.
- From the Beach (approx. 20-30 minutes): Follow SR 1 north approximately 3 miles. Turn left on Cave Neck Road (County Road 88). Turn right at the intersection with Federal Street (SR 5). Follow Federal Street into Milton, around a sharp bend to the left. Turn right onto Chandler Street. Take first right into the parking area.
- From Washington/Baltimore (approx. 2.5 hours): Follow U.S. Route 50 east across the Bay Bridge. Turn left (east) on SR 404. Before reaching Bridgeville, turn left on SR 16 heading northeast toward Greenwood. Follow SR 16 past Route 13 and Route 113 until you reach Milton. Turn right on Union Street (SR 5) and follow into the town. Turn left onto Chandler Street. Take first right into the parking area.
To the Hiking Trails at The Nature Conservancy’s Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve:
- From the town of Milton: From Chandler Street, turn left on Federal Street (SR 5) and go south for 0.3 miles, following the sharp bend to the right at the center of town. Turn left on Wharton Street (turns into Atlantic Street). Follow for 1.5 miles. Turn left on Round Pole Bridge Road (County Road 257). Follow for 0.6 miles and look for the Preserve parking area on the left. GPS coordinates: N38°46’27.5666” W75°17’00.7318”
- From Wilmington, Delaware (approx. 1.5 hours): Follow SR1 South . Turn right on Hudson Road (County Road 258), which is immediately south of bridge over the Broadkill River. Turn right on Round Pole Bridge Road (County Road 257). Follow 2.9 miles and look for Preserve parking on the right. GPS coordinates: N38°46’27.5666” W75°17’00.7318”
- From the Beach (approx. 20-30 minutes): Follow SR 1 north approximately 3 miles. Turn left on Cave Neck Road (County Road 88). Turn right on Round Pole Bridge Road (County Road 257). Follow 0.8 miles and look for Preserve parking on the left. GPS coordinates: N38°46’27.5666” W75°17’00.7318”
- From Washington/Baltimore (approx. 2.5 hours): Follow U.S. Route 50 east across the Bay Bridge. Turn left (east) on SR 404. Before reaching Bridgeville, turn left on SR 16 heading northeast toward Greenwood. Follow SR 16 past Route 13 and Route 113 to SR 1, turn right (south). Turn right on Hudson Road (County Road 258), which is immediately south of bridge over the Broadkill River. Turn right on Round Pole Bridge Road (County Road 257). Follow 2.9 miles and look for Preserve parking on the right. GPS coordinates: N38°46’27.5666” W75°17’00.7318”