Retrace the Historic Water Route of John Smith in Southern Delaware

Share Article

Nanticoke River Water Trail officially commissioned in southern Delaware. Retrace the route of historic explorer John Smith along one of the nation's most pristine waterways.

Through the officially designated Nanticoke River Water Trail, visitors to Delaware’s southernmost county can now retrace the steps of legendary English explorer John Smith, who originally sailed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the early years of the 17th century.

Stretching more than 60 miles from its headwaters in southern Delaware to Maryland’s Tangier Sound, the Nanticoke River is one of the most pristine rivers in the eastern United States.

Originally discovered by Smith and 14 members of his crew in 1608, the watershed of the Nanticoke is more than 700,000 acres and includes extensive forests, thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands, the northernmost strands of bald cypress trees on the east coast and the highest concentration of bald eagles in the northeastern United States.

Now, thanks to a joint effort between the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the City of Seaford and Southern Delaware Tourism, among other partners, the historic river has been officially commissioned as the Nanticoke River Water Trail.

“I like to think of this water trail as a living storybook that will entice more visitors and residents to discover the pristine beauty of the Nanticoke River, and the rich history of its watershed,” says Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism, the convention and visitors bureau for Sussex County, Delaware.

The Nanticoke River is also part of the first national water trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail, which retraces the historic routes along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries taken by Smith in 1607-1608.

The newly commissioned Nanticoke trail begins at the river’s headwaters in Seaford and meanders along the river to the Maryland state line. The river’s watershed protects more than 100 rare and threatened species of plants and animals and is home to an eclectic collection of wildlife, including Delmarva fox squirrels, beavers, peregrine falcons and white-tailed deer.

The original name of the historic river, based in the Algonquian language, was the Kuskarawaok. It was later changed to the Nanticoke after continued European involvement with the region’s Nanticoke Indian Tribe.

Today, the trail includes some of the most biologically diverse habitats in Delaware, which holds high recreational and ecological significance, and is rich in history and culture.

More information about the new Nanticoke River Water Trail can be found at, which provides information about paddling tips, downloadable maps and event resources.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

James Diehl
Southern Delaware Tourism
(302) 856-1818
Email >
Visit website