I recently explored Trap Pond State Park, a true oasis of nature near Laurel, Delaware. Trap Pond is a 4,000-acre recreational area best known for its bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) and tranquil camping areas. Visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities such as kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Trap Pond is home to the northernmost, naturally-occurring stand of bald cypress trees in the United States. It was originally established as an industrial logging area in the late 1700s to harvest the cypress wood and other hardwoods such as American white cedar. Trap Pond was purchased by the Federal Government during the early 1930s and became Delaware’s first state park in 1951.
I met my guides, William Koth (Interpretive Program Coordinator) and Shauna McVey (Communications Relations Coordinator) from Delaware Parks and Recreation on a beautiful, sunny fall morning. The fine needles of the bald cypress trees were just beginning to turn a vibrant orange color. The fresh aromas of the conifers that surround the pond greeted me as I walked to the dock. I was immediately immersed in nature’s beauty; fall colors were abundant, birds called from the woods, herons announced their presence, and a feeling of peace and tranquility overwhelmed me.
Will and Shauna took me on a memorable pontoon boat ride into the cypress swamp. Clusters of bald cypress in the middle of the pond provided evidence of the transition that the pond went through in the mid-1930s when the dam was rebuilt. Red-bellied turtles – who are ectothermic – occupied snags to warm up in the morning sun. Cormorants were establishing territory on other snags and trees and a few Canada geese and great blue herons could be heard calling out with their distinctive vocalizations.
The visual of the cypress trees being illuminated by the morning sun was stunning. As we slowly made our way into the cypress swamp there was a definite transition to tranquility. Tall cypress trees lined the narrow, still waterways of the swamp. The fresh smells were intoxicating. Will stopped the motor a few times while we slowly drifted in the ever-so-slight current and observed the wildlife all around us. A beaver carried a small branch to its den. Barred owls could be heard in the woods calling to each other, and a few woodpeckers could be heard in the trees. Frogs were croaking and a few fish broke the stillness of the water’s surface. The ride back was equally rewarding.
As we pulled up to the dock, I felt fortunate to have shared this space in the outdoors and to have experienced the solitude of the cypress swamp while being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells that surrounded me. I was also very thankful to Will and Shauna for their hospitality and sharing their knowledge and experiences.
Nationally known for its scenic bald cypress stands and the James Branch Nature Preserve, Trap Pond State Park oversees 2,685 acres of land that offer recreational opportunities to the public.