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
We invite 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
Ten points 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:
- The Sun Oil Company tank farm.
- The defunct Delaware County Sewer Treatment Plant.
- Action Concrete's Recycling operation.
- 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.
- 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 hours.
- 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.
- 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.
- Another large tributary , Muckinipattis Creek, enters Darby Creek here.
- 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.
- 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 canoeing.
- 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 them.
- 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!