A New Trail at John Dickinson Plantation Is a Stroll Through Time

A new walking trail on what was once an old farm lane connects John Dickinson Plantation to St. Jones Reserve—and hikers to Delaware history.

There’s a new route in town for Delaware trail seekers. A path connecting John Dickinson Plantation and St. Jones Reserve is finally complete, after visitors expressed a desire for increased access to the historic and natural landscape. The project was made possible with financial assistance in part through a grant under the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act, administered by the Office for Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

The new trail was previously an old farm lane flanked by fields and crops. At the starting point, along the John Dickinson side, hikers will have a clear view of the front door to the plantation’s nearly 300-year-old mansion. The path then heads east, stretching across a property-demarcating hedgerow of trees and extending along the reserve’s main drive to the visitor center, where it links to two miles of existing boardwalk and nature trails. 

john dickinson plantation
Courtesy of the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs

“The pathway is special because it allows the public to experience portions of the property that had been inaccessible to them—areas that had been actively farmed through agricultural leases,” says Annie Fenimore, lead interpreter at John Dickinson Plantation. “Also, especially along the historic farm lane, the modern trails follow similar pathways that people traveled over 250 years ago.” 

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From spring to late autumn, birdwatchers might catch red-winged blackbirds and barn swallows swooping and calling out over the fields. Many of them are native to the area and live happily in an estuary. Snow geese visit in the colder months. If their timing is just right, visitors may catch deer springing through the fields at John Dickinson Plantation. Also along the pathway is a spur that connects to the buffer zone around the African burial ground, which was identified through archaeological work in 2021. 

“Especially along the historic farm lane, the modern trails follow similar pathways that people traveled over 250 years ago.”

Fenimore says interpretive panels will soon be installed along the pathway to help educate visitors about the natural and historic features they can see in the landscape today and what they might have seen hundreds of years ago. Additional pathways in future phases of the project will allow people to experience more of the marsh and the agricultural fields at John Dickinson Plantation. The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs has also begun developing additional plans in conjunction with a descendant community group and tribal partners. 

Although visitors are welcome to walk the trail now, an official opening is slated for the future. Visit history.delaware.gov for updates and programming at the site.

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