“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.”
John Burroughs, American Naturalist
When tree limbs are bare and the wind starts nipping at your cheeks, you may think there is not much to see in our parks – but beauty can be found if you look in the right places! The defining features of Alapocas Run and Wilmington State Parks in New Castle County are heavily influenced by the interaction of water and the landscape, and winter is the perfect season to visit. Head out to view these scenic waterfalls and features!
Water & the Landscape: The Fall Line & Wilmington’s Industrial History
Alapocas Run State Park and Wilmington State Parks are positioned right along a geologic feature called the ‘Fall Line’. This is the region where the rocky, rolling hills of the Piedmont plateau transition to the flat, sandy and marshy Atlantic coastal plain. While the majority of Delaware’s state parks are situated exclusively on the coastal plain, Alapocas and Wilmington are the only two parks that directly straddle this geographic transition.
Wilmington, at its core, is a manufacturing city. As the mighty Brandywine Creek speeds down the Fall Line, it produces the perfect conditions for the construction of mills. The remnants of the city’s milling past are central to the landscape of Alapocas and Wilmington State Parks, and provide visitors with scenic views.
Brandywine Park Spillway (Wilmington State Parks)
A mill race, or raceway, is the narrow, powerful current of water which supplies water to a mill’s water wheel. The primary raceway for this area is located on the south side of Brandywine Park. In winter, the water cascading over the spillway creates a frozen froth akin to the top of a root beer float. The spillway can be seen from the Jasper Crane Rose Garden, or up close from the small footbridge over the raceway.
Broom Street Dam (Wilmington State Parks)
The sloping banks near the Broom Street Dam – also known as the #2 Dam – provide a tranquil spot to enjoy watching water rush under floating ice sheets before it flows over the dam.
#4 Dam (Alapocas Run State Park)
Although waterfalls are a rarity in Delaware, the unique topography of Alapocas Run State Park allows for scenic views of the Brandywine Creek and Alapocas Run, a small tributary, as elevation drops. The broad #4 Dam is visible from the Northern Delaware Greenway/East Coast Greenway Trail and near the park’s rock wall. While you’re there, check out the beauty of Alapocas Run, too.
Alapocas Run Waterfall (Alapocas Run State Park)
Alapocas Run is just over a mile long, and drains most of the park which shares its name. From its headwaters near Route 202, this stream falls roughly 200 feet in elevation until it enters the Brandywine near the base of the rock wall. This quick transition allows for some small – but impressionable – cascades.
Near the park’s rock wall, you can find the stream tumbling over Brandywine blue gneiss, or ‘blue rock’ as it is locally known. The steady rush of water between layers of ice invites an atmosphere of serenity, and sets a contemplative backdrop to a hike through this mature forest.
Remediation Field Icicles (Alapocas Run State Park)
The site of a former cardboard factory from the early 20th century, the Remediation Field is a park favorite. Towering over one-hundred feet atop the field are cliffs of massive blue rock, and on these cliffs you will find seeping water from the ground above. In the summer, visitors notice only a trickle of water cascading down the front. During the winter, water seeping through the rock from the ground above freezes into thick icicles, decorating the cliff in a shimmering curtain of spears. This is the only place in Delaware where you can find icicles forming like this, and watching how they grow and morph over the course of the winter is like witnessing magic!
Like many great things in nature, the beauty of these winter features is ephemeral – don’t miss them. Head out to Alapocas Run and Wilmington State Parks today!
A special thanks to Liz Androskaut, Interpretive Programs Manager, and Nathan Koski-Vacirca, Naturalist, for sharing this unique perspective and historical insight.