Darby Creek - The 4.5 mile segment of Darby Creek
that flows through the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is unique
and scenic. It winds through the largest freshwater marsh in Pennsylvania,
which allows canoeists to see a variety of plants and animals. The
refuge waters are tidal and navigable only within 2 hours before and after
high tide. To access monthly tide charts click here: Tide
Charts Call our Visitor Contact Station (215-365-3118)
for more information.
A Scenic Tour
you to take the following canoe tour of the Refuge! As you enter
the creek at the canoe launch, you may see Canada geese feeding in the
fields or a northern harrier (marsh hawk) soaring over the marsh. In the creek, you
may see the eastern painted turtle or the state-endangered red-bellied
turtle sunning on a log or rock. Hooded mergansers, pintails, shovelers
and mallards are a few of the ducks that you may pass. Least bitterns,
great egrets, black-crowned night herons and yellow warblers are among
the species which nest on or near the refuge. Muskrats, opossum, deer and
raccoons are present as well, though some may be more readily seen at night.
In spring, you will be treated to an array of wildflowers and migrating
birds. By late spring and through the summer, the young birds will
fledge and mature. In the fall, the influx of migrants is repeated.
Even in winter, there is wildlife to see.
Points of Interest
of interest that a canoeist will pass as they head from the launch site to
the creek's deep water lagoon are correspondingly numbered below and on the Canoe Map:
1. The Sun Oil Company tank farm.
2. The defunct Delaware County Sewer Treatment Plant.
3. Action Concrete's Recycling operation.
4. The refuge's fenced water control structure. The 48 inch diameter
pipe allows for some control of the large pond's water level. The
level is managed to optimize the pond's value as a wildlife habitat.
5. The 62 acre Folcroft Landfill (active from 1956-74), now capped
and monitored. At this point, the canoeist will begin to see undisturbed
freshwater tidal marsh. If the tide is rising, explore the tributary
channels. But beware of the outgoing tide that can strand you for
6. One of the larger channels is Hermesprota Creek, located on Darby
Creek's northern side.
Past the marsh, the creek is bordered by the refuge to the south and
the towns of Folcroft and Norwood to the north. On the refuge side
is a field of phragmites, a wetland weed which grows well in disturbed
wetlands, crowding out species that provide better food for wildlife.
The plan is to eventually restore these wetlands.
7. As you continue downstream, you'll see a steel bridge over the channel
at the east end of this "Wetland Restoration Project". The new wetland
is also tidal, so if you explore that channel, be careful, and make sure
the tide is high.
8. Another large tributary , Muckinipattis Creek, enters Darby Creek
9. The historic Morton Mortensen House is in Norwood's Winona Park.
The home was built in the first years of the eighteenth century by adding
to an old Swedish house built 60 years before.
10. This is a deep water lagoon that was dredged in the late 1960's
for fill material for the construction of I-95. It is 30 feet deep
in some sections. There is a marina 1/4 mile downstream. Occasionally,
a wake-making motorboat may wander upstream, so it is best to end our canoe
trail here. Watch out for other boaters. Turn around and have
a safe trip back to the canoe launch!
Canoeing Safety and Trail Ethics
Canoeists must bring their own canoe.
The tidal waters restrict canoeing from 2 hours before to 2 hours
after high tide.
* Always wear a personal flotation device.
Carrying 1 flotation device per person is required by law.
* Leave the alcohol at home. It is illegal
to be under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance while
* Carry an extra paddle.
* Canoe with friends, not alone.
* Know how to swim.
* Tie down gear.
* Know the weather forecast. Keep an eye out
for weather changes.
* Beware of the constantly changing tides.
* If the wildlife you are watching react to your
presence, you are too close. Increase your distance. Otherwise,
they will leave, denying you and those behind you the pleasure of observing
* Litter poses health hazards to the wildlife in
the marsh and creek. There is no janitor in the marshes! So
please, if you brought it in with you, take it back out. Keep litter
in its place!
Fishing is permitted
along the main dike trail after the big boardwalk to the connecting Trolley Bed trail. This
area provides fishing in both the 145-acre impoundment and Darby Creek.
Fishing in this area must be from the bank - structures such as the canoe
ramp and the boardwalk are closed to fishing. However, physically
disabled individuals may fish from the lower deck of the observation platform. Look for carp, catfish,
large-mouth bass and smaller pan fish in this area.
Fishing is permitted along Darby Creek through most of the refuge. You may fish from the banks of the Dike trail, or along the Loop trail in the western part of the refuge. There is an ADA accessible fishing deck just past the big boardwalk. You may also fish the creek from a canoe. To keep access to the creek unobstructed, fishing from the canoe launch area is not permitted. The Darby Creek is tidal, so beware of the tides.
Route 420 Lagoons
Fishing is allowed from the bank of the Lagoons on the west side of Route 420.
There is a paved parking area at this point just north of the southbound entrance to I-95. .
A gravel parking lot is located on the east side of Route 420 and provides
access to Darby Creek. Look for striped bass,
carp, catfish, panfish, and tiger musky.
All fishermen must
comply with Pennsylvania Fishing and Crabbing Regulations, and if 16 years
of age or older have a current and valid PA Fishing License. For limits
and seasons, refer to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissions's Summary
of Fishing Regulations and Laws for ponds and non-tidal waters: section
called "Commonwealth Inland Waters," for Darby Creek: section entitled
"Delaware River and Estuary".
* Bowfishing, spearing and netting are prohibited.
* Taking of frogs, snakes and turtles is prohibited.
* Fishing is prohibited from the wooded side of the
impoundment and the newly acquired area on the south-side of Bartram Ave.
* Fishing from the canoe ramp, boardwalk, and observation
blinds is prohibited.
Litter and Pollution Considerations:
Fishing line and other
litter is a severe problem. Litter not only looks bad, it can kill
wildlife by entanglement. Please don't litter! If you see someone
littering, report it to one of the refuge's staff. Fish from all the
refuge waters were tested in 1994. While some species were found
to be safe to eat, it is recommended that all fish caught on the refuge
be considered contaminated and released. For more information concerning
the tests, contact refuge staff. The Darby Creek Sewage
Pumping Station occasionally malfunctions or is overloaded with storm water,
causing it to discharge into Darby Creek. When this happens, raw
sewage is present in the creek. To be safe, fishermen should not
fish in the Creek when this occurs. Call the Cusano Environmental
Education Center at (215) 365-3118 for information or to report possible
discharges into the Creek.