Established in 1963, the refuge is an important stopover site for migratory birds as they travel up and down the Atlantic Flyway and provides protected breeding habitat for federally and State-listed threatened and endangered species, as well as many neo-tropical migrating bird species. Prime Hook’s habitat features include, freshwater marsh, ponds, wooded swamps and upland grasslands and forest. Hundreds of native plant and animal species thrive in this mosaic of these diverse cover types that provide habitat for 308 species of birds, 51 species of fish, 45 species of reptiles and amphibians, 37 species of mammals, and an array of rare insect and plant species.
Prime Hook NWR will strive to preserve, restore, and enhance the exceptional diversity of native flora and fauna and significant historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Prime Hook NWR habitat management goals will seek to maintain a healthy Refuge environment that will provide opportunities for visitors to enjoy wildlife-dependent uses of the Refuge in a natural setting. Interpreting a unique assemblage of habitats, wildlife and the Refuge’s historical heritage, as well as improving facilities will enhance the visitor’s experience while protecting the cultural integrity of the area.
To meet these challenges, the Service will seek partnerships with other agencies, interest groups, landowners, and local communities. These efforts will result in greater protection of wildlife, fish, and plant resources throughout north-central Nebraska.
Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.
The purpose(s) of this unit is. . .
"... for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds." 16 U.S.C. § 715d (Migratory Bird Conservation Act)
"... suitable for— (1) incidental fish and wildlife-oriented recreational development, (2) the protection of natural resources, (3) the conservation of endangered species or threatened species ..." 16 U.S.C. § 460k-1 "... the Secretary ... may accept and use ... real ... property. Such acceptance may be accomplished under the terms and conditions of restrictive covenants imposed by donors ..." 16 U.S.C. § 460k-2 (Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C. § 460k-460k-4), as amended).
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge falls within the Broadkill Hundred and Cedar Creek Hundred of Sussex County, or formerly referred to as Hoorenkill or Whorekill County. Translated from the Dutch word Priume Hoek meaning Plum Point, Prime Hook was named by European settlers in the 17th century for the land's abundance of purple beach plums.
In 1963, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge was established under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or any other management purpose, expressly for migratory birds.
The refuge began as a satellite of its sister refuge to the north, Bombay Hook. With a small and dedicated staff, the refuge began management of the land especially for wildlife. In 1986, the endangered Delmarva Fox Squirrel was reintroduced to the refuge. With the help of volunteers and community support, a Refuge Headquarters building was completed in 1997. That year also marked the creation of the Friends of Prime Hook, who have been assisting the refuge in its endeavors ever since.
In 2000, Prime Hook became an independent refuge. The refuge has expanded to over 10,000 acres with one of the largest impoundments on the East Coast. Reorganizing efforts in 2007 combined Bombay Hook and Prime Hook to become the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The refuge is located in a key position in the Atlantic flyway and each year, hosts hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. Today, the Refuge's primary objectives continue to focus on providing habitat and protection for waterfowl, waterbirds and other migratory birds, and endangered species; and to insure the availability of these resources to the American people for their enjoyment now and in the future.