include boating, fishing, hiking, and biking. Kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and bicycles are available to rent. Water, hiking,
and biking trails on the property range in
length to accommodate every activity level.
Because of elevated bacteria levels, there has
been no swimming allowed at Trap Pond
since 1999. The community tried to remedy
this by updating local septic systems and
fencing cattle out of streams. Now, the nearby town of Bethel is working to meet
Blueprint goals and improve water quality
on Broad Creek by installing rain gardens
and a living shoreline.
The park’s visitor center displays do an
excellent job of showing the connection of
Trap Pond to the Nanticoke River and the
Chesapeake Bay. A large watershed map is
front and center when you enter the building. Below it is a sizable tank with live fish
from the pond. Depending on the day, you
may see crappie, bluegill, or pumpkinseed.
Informational displays cover topics like
environmental stewardship, the local
Nanticoke Indian tribe, and area history.
Captain John Smith brought his discovery
barge up the Nanticoke in 1608. During his
travels, he noted 200 Nanticoke warriors
and their families living along the river.
After some cautious testing back and forth, a
group of the Indians approached John
Smith. Some gifts were exchanged and several of the Nanticoke offered their services as
personal guides, taking the explorer farther
up the river in canoes. At the mouth of Broad
Creek, Captain John Smith left a brass cross
on the river bank, marking his presence.
Indians had lived on the Delmarva Peninsula
for more than 12,000 years. Before John
Smith arrived, they farmed corn, beans,
squash, pumpkins, sunflower, and tobacco.
They gathered nuts, berries, and eggs and
hunted squirrels, deer, and waterfowl. The
river helped sustain them with clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, eels, and fish.
The arrival of the Europeans changed the
Nanticoke lifestyle. In the early 18th century, the Maryland assembly (this part of
Delaware was then Maryland) set aside a
reservation for the Nanticoke at Broad
Creek. But, life on the reservation was difficult. Unable to travel between their seasonal hunting grounds, the Nanticoke’s
resources were severly limited. One winter,
squatters arrived while the Nanticoke were
inland hunting and harvested many trees.
In the mid-1700s, after decades of conflict,
many Nanticoke moved elsewhere, some
heading east to Indian River. Some
remained, trying to adapt to the new cul-
ture. One was Issac Harmon, who earned
money as a seaman and bought a sizable
piece of land in what is now Millsboro. His
great-granddaughter June Robbins lives on
that land today.
About 500 Nanticoke still reside in Sussex
County. June is keeping their traditions alive
by helping run the Nanticoke Indian
Museum in Millsboro. The building is
packed with Nanticoke treasures: arrowheads, tools, clothing, and art. Even better
than seeing the Nanticoke items was speaking with June and her colleague Sterling
Street. They were generous with their time
and stories and clearly proud of their heritage.
Their river, the Nanticoke, is arguably one
of the least-known and most beautiful
rivers of the Chesapeake. Much of it, the
marshes in particular, still appears as it did
when Captain John Smith visited, and
when the Nanticoke were free to live on
Loren Anne Barnett—CBF’s
Director of Creative Services
and Editor of Save the Bay
magazine—grew up on
Maryland’s Severn River.
Nanticoke Indian June (Morning Star) Robbins and her granddaughter Siana
dance at the tribe’s annual Powwow held every September in Millsboro.
The water trail through Trap Pond State Park’s bald cypress swamp offers a
tranquil, shaded canoeing experience.