Explore Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Explore Delaware's wildlife at Bombay Hook by walking its trails through freshwater marshlands and upland forests. Learn more about this wildlife refuge!

Located along the coast of Delaware, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 as a refuge and breeding ground for migrating birds and wildlife. Bombay Hook is recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

Explore Bombay Hook: Bird Watching and Native Delaware Wildlife

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge hosts hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds, ducks, geese and songbirds. Bombay Hook acts as a refuge for migrating birds traveling from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is home to 16,000 acres of freshwater pools, upland forests, swamps, tidal salt marshes and agricultural fields. In fact, the refuge is home to one of the most extensive unaltered salt marshes in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Hiking Trails and Scenery

Bombay Hook sports plenty of hiking trails ranging from less than half a mile to almost two miles long, taking you through the refuge's marshes and wetlands. These trails allow everyone from casual visitors to avid bird-watchers the opportunity to connect with Delaware's diverse and abundant wildlife. 

In the summer, you can check out the many duck broods that frequent the Bear Swamp Pool by taking the Bear Swamp Trail. Or, you can get a breathtaking view of the pools and marshlands from the Raymond and Shearness Observation Tower Trails.

Take a look at all of Bombay Hook's nature and hiking trails and choose what part of the park you'll explore next!

Birding and Bird Species

For birders looking to figure out the best time to visit Bombay Hook, check out this brief overview of Bombay Hook bird sightings by month:

  • January: Birders at Bombay Hook can observe bald eagles building their new nests among the high places of the marshes. Hawks are commonly seen during this month, too, from marsh hawks to red-tailed and rough-legged hawks.
  • February: Bald eagles begin laying their eggs while mild weather brings large flocks of pintail ducks to Bombay Hook.
  • March: Birders interested in waterfowl can view ducks, snow geese and Canada geese as they migrate. Woodcocks begin their courtship flights.
  • April: Keep an eye on those bald eagle nests — eggs are beginning to hatch! Purple martins also return to the area while early spring songbird migrations start.
  • May: The concentration of shorebirds in Bombay Hook peaks, as well as warbler migrations. Duck broods begin to emerge, too.
  • June: Look to the skies — baby bald eagles are starting to leave the nest! While baby eagles spread their wings, black-necked stilts start to build nests in impoundments.
  • July: Head to Bombay Hook's Bear Swamp Pool to view the many duck broods. Large concentrations of wading birds like egrets, ibis and herons are in the area. Later, toward the end of the month, you'll see shorebirds arrive on their southward migration flights.
  • August: The number of shore birds continues to increase in August. Meanwhile, green- and blue-winged teal begin to arrive in Bombay Hook.
  • September: Listen closely as late-migrating songbirds arrive at Bombay Hook, along with more shorebirds. The first Canada geese of the season begin to arrive, too.
  • October: Look to the shallow waters to view avocets scurrying along with their curved beaks, and watch as pintail, black and mallard ducks start their fall migration. Larger numbers of Canada and snow geese begin to arrive in Bombay Hook.
  • November: Fall waterfowl migration peaks with geese, ducks, blue-winged and green-winged teal, and other birds.
  • December: View the majestic bald eagles as they perch on leafless trees. If the weather isn't too cold, you can see large populations of wintering birds.

Things to Do Around Smyrna!

Fill your visit to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge with even more to do. Experience all Smyrna has to offer by visiting its historical sites, wildlife trails, restaurants and breweries.

Discover the Rich History

Learn about the intriguing history of the town of Smyrna and its surrounding areas by visiting some of its historical sites:

  • Smyrna Museum: Built in the late 1700s, the Smyrna Museum features two historic Civil War-era buildings — the Barracks and the Plank House. You can visit the museum to view historic local artifacts, paintings and rotating monthly exhibits highlighting Smyrna's fascinating past.
  • Belmont Hall: Built in 1773, this beautiful Georgian mansion is one of Delaware's most historic houses. Tour Belmont Hall and learn about local history, listen to stories about former residents and walk the beautiful gardens surrounding the mansion.

Explore the Outdoors

Get some fresh air and traverse Smyrna's local wildlife and nature trails:

  • Blackbird State Forest: Explore 40 miles of scenic woodland trails at Delaware's Blackbird State Forest. With 10 different trail options to explore, you can wander through the lush natural wildlife tucked away just outside of Smyrna. Blackbird Forest is open year-round for camping, nature walks, hiking and jogging.
  • Big Oak County Park: Open daily from sunrise to sunset, Big Oak County Park is a 90-acre, free public access outdoor recreation, conservation and education park, making it a popular local outdoor destination. Big Oak is home to the Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation (DASEF) facility, where kids and parents can learn about everything from dinosaurs to space and astronomy!

You've no doubt worked up an appetite after exploring Smyrna's history and wildlife, so stop by some of its popular local eateries for good food, good brews and great times:

  • Sambo's Tavern: For classic seafood, head to Sambo's Tavern. Located on the banks of the Leipsic River, Sambo's is home to classic seafood dishes like steamed clams, shrimp, rockfish, oysters and crabs. 
  • Trevi Ristorante: Get transported to Italy without leaving Smyrna! Trevi Ristorante offers authentic Italian cuisine with wood-fired pizza, fresh-baked bread, seafood and traditional Italian dishes. Visit Trevi to experience why it's considered one of the best Italian restaurants in Delaware.
  • Painted Stave: This stand-alone distillery is nestled right in the heart of Smyrna. Painted Stave highlights the best of local agriculture by offering hand-crafted spirits made from regionally sourced ingredients. Stop by for distillery tours and tastings!
  • Brick Works: For a warm, inviting atmosphere, visit Brick Works Brewing & Eats. This brewpub prides itself on utilizing locally sourced ingredients to concoct its delicious craft beers and innovative menu items made from scratch daily.
  • Blue Earl BrewingBlue Earl is home to live music, great food and exceptional local craft beers. This brewery puts the soulfulness of blues music into every beer it creates, creating a down-to-earth atmosphere that keeps out-of-towners and locals coming back for more.

Plan Your Trip With Our Visitor's Guide

Want to experience all that Delaware has to offer, from events to food and outdoor adventures? Make the most of your visit and request a copy of our handy Visitor's Guide!

Get Up Close and Take Our Survey

A Chance To Win $2,500!

Click To Enter