Last updated: 6/7/2013
Smyrna, Delaware
Street Address
2591 Whitehall Neck Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
Mailing Address
RFD#1, Box 147
2591 Whitehall Neck Road
Smyrna, DE 19977
phone: 302-653-9345
fax: 302-653-0684


Year Round
The wildlife drive is open from sunrise to sunset daily. The visitor center is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Monday - Friday
8 AM - 4 PM
During spring and fall weekends
The visitor center is also open Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Monday - Friday
8 AM - 4 PM
Sunday, Saturday
9 AM - 5 PM


Stretching eight miles along Delaware Bay and covering 16,251 acres, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for wildlife. Four-fifths of the refuge is tidal salt marsh with a mix of cordgrass meadows, mud flats, tidal pools, rivers, creeks, and tidal streams. The upland area includes forests, freshwater impoundments, brushy and timbered swamps, and fields of herbaceous plants. This diversity of habitats is reflected in the diversity of animal life.



Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest remaining expanses of tidal salt marsh in the mid-Atlantic region. The refuge, located along the coast of Delaware, is mostly marsh, but also includes freshwater impoundments and upland habitats that are managed for other wildlife.

Bombay Hook was established in 1937 as a link in the chain of refuges extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. It is primarily a refuge and breeding ground for migrating birds and other wildlife. The value and importance of Bombay Hook for migratory bird protection and conservation has increased through the years, primarily due to the management of the refuge and the loss of high quality habitat along the Atlantic Flyway.

Bombay Hook is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Portions are also designated a research natural area. The refuge, a nationally recognized birding spot attracting birders from across the country, is designated a Globally Important Bird Area. The Refuge, as well as the entire State of Delaware, is part of the New England/Mid Atlantic Coast Bird Conservation Region Implementation Plan (BCR 30).


Migrating and wintering waterfowl flock to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) each fall and winter. Common species include northern pintail, American black ducks, green-winged teal, Canada geese, and snow geese. They can be found feeding in the refuge’s managed freshwater impoundments or loafing in the adjacent expanses of salt marsh.


Bombay Hook NWR is an important stop on the Delaware Bay for thousands of migrating shorebirds every spring, as they make their critical trip north to their breeding grounds. At low tide they can be seen feeding by the thousands on the salt marsh mudflats along the wildlife drive. The refuge’s freshwater impoundments also provide mudflat habitats as they are drawn down each spring. During late summer and early fall, southbound migrating shorebirds also visit the refuge as they fly towards their wintering grounds. Common species include semipalmated sandpipers, dunlin, dowitchers, yellowlegs, semipalmated plovers, American avocets, and many more.

Tidal Salt Marsh

Bombay Hook NWR is known for its vast expanse of tidal salt marsh, among the largest unfragmented marsh in the mid-Atlantic. Although only a portion of the marsh is visible to the public along the wildlife drive, this is arguably the most valuable habitat on the refuge. Salt marshes are on the decline worldwide, and are home to many species of conservation concern, such as American black ducks, salt marsh sparrows, and sharp-tailed sparrows. Refuge staff is actively engaged in research and monitoring programs to better understand this treasured habitat, and to identify opportunities for possible restoration.

Freshwater Impoundments

Managed freshwater impoundments are one way that Bombay Hook NWR provides important feeding and resting habitat for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and year-round resident species. The refuge has four such impoundments – Raymond Pool, Shearness Pool, Bear Swamp Pool, and Finis Pool – and each one is a little unique. Water levels are managed on a seasonal basis to provide mudflats for migrating shorebirds in the spring, then flooded in the fall to give dabbling ducks access to the seeds of the plants that germinate over the summer. Situated along the wildlife drive, these impoundments provide some of the best wildlife viewing in the regio

Educational Programs

Bombay Hook offers hands on nature studies for grades one through twelve, allowing students to experience the several habitats on the refuge – from tidal salt marsh to freshwater impoundments, upland fields, and forests.


Check the website or call to find out about refuge road closures during bad weather and hunting season. During summer months, visitor should bring insect repellent and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.

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