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Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve Turns 30

The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve will mark its 30th anniversary on Friday, July 21.

The  National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 30 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Established through the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the coastal states. Combined, the research reserves cover nearly 1.4 million acres of estuaries and are focused on stewardship, research, training and education.

The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, otherwise known as DNERR, consists of two sites that were selected and nominated for inclusion in the national research reserve system by then-Governor Michael Castle. The multiple-site reserve – with components at St. Jones in Dover and Blackbird Creek near Townsend – includes both private and state-owned land managed by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in conjunction with NOAA.

In 1993, following NOAA’s approval of the submitted management plan, DNERR became the 22nd reserve in the system, encompassing 3,800 acres. Then-Governor and current U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper signed the designation on July 21, 1993. Currently, the reserve protects 6,364 acres, with 1,245 acres of freshwater wetlands, ponds and forest lands in Blackbird Creek, and 5,119 acres of salt marsh and open water habitats on the St. Jones River on Delaware Bay.

“Delaware is proud to be a part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system and to contribute to their efforts at aiding conservation and management on both the local and national levels,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “The diverse range of habitats in Delaware makes our state an ideal location for research and training, and the initiatives undertaken there provide valuable information on keeping estuaries healthy.”

The Blackbird Creek Reserve boasts several miles of trails through uplands and along the marsh, a canoe/kayak launch, restoration demonstration areas, as well as a variety of programs and  volunteer opportunities for the community, teachers, students, and families. It also supports ongoing research and monitoring, field studies, citizen monitoring programs and training opportunities for coastal decision-makers.

The St. Jones component includes a visitors center that is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays (closed on weekends and holidays). It also features hiking trails, hands-on interactive activities and exhibits, restoration demonstration areas, St. Jones boat trips and a variety of programs throughout the year.


The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy uses science, education, policy development and incentives to address Delaware’s climate, energy and coastal challenges. For more information, visit the  website and connect with @DelawareDNREC on FacebookInstagramTwitter or LinkedIn.

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