Alapocas Run State Park is a state park located in New Castle County, Delaware along the Brandywine Creek. The park was opened to the public on May 28, 2016 after being developed by the Delaware Nature Society through a partnership with the State of Delaware and its Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).
It officially became part of the Delaware State Parks system when it was purchased by DNREC from the Dels in December 2021 for $2 million; this purchase also included an additional 1,400 acres (5.7km2) adjacent to the park which were added to bring the total acreage to nearly 3,000 acres (12km2). Alapocas Run’s main feature is a gorge that cuts deep into the limestone bluffs of the creek. This stretch of the Brandywine has been called “one of America’s greatest rivers”.
The park includes two miles (3km) of hiking trails, extensive picnic facilities, and access to the trailheads of several longer routes such as the George Washington Highway Trail and the Capital Crescent Trail. A bike path along the riverbank connects the park with Wilmington’s Riverfront Greenway. In addition to these amenities, the park preserves one of the last open areas along the Brandywine supporting rare plants like the lady slipper orchid and northern gentian. These plant communities provide a habitat for diverse wildlife including songbirds, butterflies, moths, and salamanders.
There are more than 200 bird species present during winter months, some of which are permanent residents, while others are migratory visitors. Some trees imported from other regions grew among the original stock, including cherry, elm, and horse chestnut. One of the oldest trees in the park was felled in March 2019, aged between 400 and 450 years old. The tree was named Mother Somerset, a name given to all the trees in the park before they were cut down in March 2019. She was noted for having one of the largest trunks found in the park, measuring 20ft (6.1m) in diameter at breast height (20 feet above ground level), and weighing 5 tons. Her name came about because she had become so large people would notice her size, and then ask where the big tree came from.
Before the park existed, landowner Mike Crescenzia planned to log the entire forest. He sold his interests in the property to DEP officials, who agreed to protect the site as a nature preserve instead of logging the land. When the DEP offered to sell the land to developers, naturalist groups rallied together to convince the agency to sell the land to them instead, and thus began the process of creating what would become Alapocas Run State Park. On Earth Day, April 22, 1978, 2,500 protesters marched on Dover against the destruction of the forests. Governor Michael Castle promised to sign legislation making Dover the first city in the nation to prohibit cutting down any more trees. After lobbying by environmental organizations, and despite opposition from real estate interests, Delaware became the second state behind California to enact a law limiting tree destruction.
Alapocas Run State Park was created in 1980, but did not open until May 28, 2016 due to budget constraints and a long delay in receiving development permits from the Federal government. The initial plan called for constructing a dam across the mouth of the run to create a lake for recreation, conservation, and flood management. However, concerns over potential damage to the ecology of the lower Brandywine led to the decision to forego building the dam and rely on rainfall to fill Lake Carnegie, a smaller reservoir intended primarily for recreational use. Despite this change in plans, the park still manages significant acreage in nearby parks, including Dewey Beach, Fort Miles, and Bellevue State Forest, through cooperation with agencies there.
Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park, many overlooking the scenic Brandywine Creek. An outdoor grill/fireplace complex is near the parking lot. Two pavilions may be reserved up to 11 months in advance for a fee. If not reserved, unassigned campsites are available on a first come first served basis. Campsites range from regular tent sites to yurts to fully furnished cabins. Group camping is accommodated by way of a separate group campground with modern bathhouses, a dump station, vending machines, and playgrounds. Vending machines dispense soft drinks, snacks, ice, and firewood.
Woodlands Ridge Road runs north west out of the park parallel to the Brandywine Creek, and provides access points for drivers to enter the park. Dewey Beach is accessible via the park entrance, or by using the exit ramp to merge onto Route 13. Access to Fort Miles State Park can be made either way, although the best route depends upon whether you approach from the south or the north. From the south, take the US 13 intersection to go east on 2nd Street SE, then turn left on Eureka Drive SE. Go straight on Delmarva Avenue SE, make a right on 6th Street SE, then another right on Edgemere Road SE. Head North on Rt. 13, pass under I-95, continue past the Naval Station, and stay on Rt. 13 towards Georgetown. At the T intersection, turn left on Saylorville Pike, then immediately turn right on Tayloe Court. Pass under I-95 again, back toward the Naval Station, and finally head East on Edgemere Road SE. The entrance to Fort Miles will be on your left.
Bellevue State Forest is accessed from Alapocas Run State Park, or from Dewey Beach. To get there from the south, take the Rte. 13 intersection to go east on 2nd St., then turn left on Eureka Dr., followed by a quick right on Delmarva Ave., then a sharp left on 6th St., followed by a right on Edgemere Rd. To get there from the north, take the Rte. 13 intersection to go east on 2nd St., then turn left on Eureka Dr., followed by a quick right on Delmarva Ave., then a sharp left on 6th St., followed by a right on Edgemere Rd. Again, Edgemere Rd. goes directly to the state forest, while Saylorville Pike loops around the perimeter of the park.
Alapocas Run State Park offers four short footpaths ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. All start and end near the parking lot. Path #4 features steps climbing moderately steeply to the top of the bluff. Path #3 passes through a hemlock grove, and ends atop a small cliff. Path #2 climbs moderately steeply to the top of the larger hill. Path #1 descends slightly, then levels off beside the creek. Longer paths extend beyond the borders of the park, leading to Dewey Beach and Fort Miles State Park.
Activities opportunities exist year round include:
- cross country skiing
Other animals seen there have included:
- striped skunks
Birds observed at the park include:
- wood ducks
- wild turkey
- bald eagles
- red-tailed hawks
- blue gill
- belted kingfishers
- American black bears
- eastern coyotes
- red foxes
- white-tail deer
- timber wolf
Trees native to the area include:
- tulip poplar
- green ash
- yellow birch
- balsam fir
- chestnut oak
- red maple