Importance of the Delaware Estuary

Working & Living River - Delaware River Estuary

When you see the beauty, power, and diversity of the Delaware Estuary, it’s easy to forget just how fragile this magnificent resource is.

Throughout recorded history, the Delaware Estuary has provided people with a wealth of beauty, resources, and recreation. Its human inhabitants and wildlife have benefited from its unique location and ecosystem.

Centuries before 1609, when Henry Hudson dropped anchor in the Delaware Bay and laid claim to the region for the Dutch, the Estuary provided Native Americans with a bounty of wildlife, rich agricultural lands, clean water, and transportation corridors to feed their families and benefit their society. Today, the Delaware Estuary continues to provide us with these same benefits that help our communities thrive. Even with our existing knowledge of the Delaware Estuary, there is still more to be learned about it and more we can do to maintain its natural beauty and the value it brings to the people who call the region home.

Human development and poor land use practices over the 400 years since that first ship sailed into the bay have profoundly altered the estuary, yet it still provides those basic services that made it a home to the first inhabitants. As early as the 18th Century, when Ben Franklin petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly to stop waste dumping and to remove tanneries, people have recognized the impact of human development on the estuary and the need for sound stewardship of this unique resource. This recognition and the resulting actions of government, industries, and volunteer organizations have greatly improved the condition of the Delaware Estuary and helped reclaim many of its functions, but challenges remain. With the help of volunteers and a commitment to increasing the community’s awareness, we all can help preserve the Delaware Estuary’s beauty and usefulness for future generations.

Explore the site and find your role in the preservation of the Delaware Estuary.