Cape Henlopen State Park

Posted on: 05-6-2011 Posted in: Favorite Places

Text and photography by Eric W Zippe

Cape Henlopen State Park is situated where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The park is just east of the historic town of Lewes and just north of the world famous resort town of Rehoboth Beach in southern Delaware. Cape Henlopen is located on the Atlantic fly-way and is visited by a host of migratory birds. The range of habitats from salt marsh to sandy pine forests to crashing surf make this 5193-acre park a very exciting photographic attraction
Cape Henlopen State Park is home to the highest dunes in the Mid-Atlantic region. The “great dune” stands over 80 feet taller the shore below. Inland “walking dunes move though stunted pine forests.
The park has an excellent nature center near the entrance, and interpretive displays throughout the park help visitors learn about the park. For overnight stays the park has a 159 site campground.

Cape Henlopen weather is typical of the Mid-Atlantic seaboard climate; Hot humid summers with cool ocean breezes often make the park cooler than just a few miles inland. Spring and fall are usually mild. Spring arriving late March to early April and fall weather often lasting until mid November. One thing to remember is that the cape is subject to hurricane season, June 1-November 30. Be sure to make travel plans with that in mind. Winters are often cold, 20s-30s with occasional outbreaks to the 40s and 50s. Be sure to bring a windbreaker whatever the season. Mosquito repellent is a must for the summer season.

Cape Henlopen offers everything from sweeping seaside vistas to macro opportunities. The pine and hardwood forests offer great flora and fauna with short hikes. Observation Towers built for World War II offer panoramic views of the whole park. Views from the overlook of the cape offer dunescapes and osprey nests. the park also offers photographic possibilities of two Lighthouses and ships entering the Delaware bay. Take precautions against sand and saltwater with you equipment. Shorebirds are best photographed using medium to long telephoto lens. Ospreys are best shot with long telephotos because of their wariness of people. The lighthouses can be easy photographed with a medium telephoto. Many macro opportunities can be found both on the bay and Oceanside beaches as well as the forests.

One of the best attributes of Cape Henlopen State Park is the great photographic possibilities year round. In the winter the sea grasses turn a brilliant gold which can be spectacular with snow. Spring brings migrating hawks, falcons and eagles. April the piping plover and other shore birds nest along the dunes. The tip of the cape is closed March 1 to September 1 to accommodate nesting birds. Full moon in May brings the horseshoe crabs to the bay beaches to lay eggs. The following 3 weeks are the best time to shoot the migrating shorebirds. In the fall, after Labor day most of the visiting tourist have left the park. This makes it an ideal time to shoot the shoreline and to enjoy the solitude that this small park can offer so close to many metropolitan areas. Breath taking sunsets are always possible.