Lums Pond State Park: The Bridges of New Castle County

I’m gonna cross that bridge
When I come to it

“Diamond Bridge” – Blondie

I’ve been looking for new hikes within an hour or so of my home. I found Lums Pond in Northern Delaware.

I pulled into a small lot off of Buck Jersey Road, paid the automated meter, and headed down the trail that departed from the southeast corner of the lot. Coming to a junction, I turned right to make a counter-clockwise circuit of the small lake. Mere steps down the trail, I came to a bridge. This was to be thematic, as I was to cross numerous small spans on my hike around the pond – maybe as many as twenty-seven. The bridges were numbered; this first bridge was number seven.

Lums Pond is man-made, dating back two hundred years. From the Delaware State Parks website:

Before the pond existed, St. Georges Creek flowed through the hardwood forest and was the site of several Native American hunting camps. The creek was dammed in the early 1800’s when the C & D canal was built. Water from the pond was used to fill the locks of the canal and power a small mill. This area was first used as a state park in 1963.

It was a perfect September day – mostly sunny and in the low seventies. I was happy to be on the trail. My route was flat and smooth, and other hikers were scarce. The Swamp Forest Trail, which circumnavigates the pond, wound pleasantly through a forest of tall hardwoods. Thick brush choked the woods to each side, but the trail was well-maintained and clear. I crossed another bridge, then another, before coming to a small dock on the water. Lums Pond shimmered in a light breeze. The dock was apropos of nothing, but provided a lovely view of the pond and an ideal place to park a kayak or canoe. After a few moments, I moved on.

The hiking was easy as I threaded my way through the Delaware forest. I crossed a bridge here, then a bridge there, before coming to one whose number should have felt slightly ominous. No, not thirteen … it was bridge number “1”. Why ominous? Well, the first bridge was likely to be near a main (read “crowded”) are of the park; those of you who read this blog regularly know that I like my solitude. Sure enough, shortly after crossing, I emerged into a large open area with adjacent parking. Kids played frisbee and adults strolled about the grassy clearing as I followed the trail that split the sward in two. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? No? Well, I still felt like I’d barely dodged a bullet as I headed back into the woods.

Looking around I thought for a moment I’d wandered onto the forest moon of Endor. Rope ladders stretched from earth to sky where octagonal platforms, connected by a network of precarious-looking rope bridges, dotted the treetops. This was not home to any Ewoks, but the Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park which seemed to be doing a pretty solid business despite the pandemic. I started passing more and more people, many of them children dashing to and fro between Go Ape’s attractions. Once clear of the zipline area, I crossed a picturesque bridge over a large inlet. Kayakers and canoers (which doesn’t even look like a word, does it?) were paddling underneath, and many parties were congregating on the bridge, enjoying the views over Lums Pond. Beyond the bridge lay the main recreation area with boat docks, bathrooms, and concessions. Masked people were everywhere and I left the trail briefly to circumnavigate the crowds. When I had put this area behind me, the trail quickly returned to the (mostly) solitary route I desired.

The Swamp Forest Trail continued to track along the shore and offer up views of the lake. Tall reeds rustled in the afternoon breeze, and the lake rippled in concert. Reaching the western tip of the little lake, the trail crossed a causeway that spanned one of Lums Pond’s many watery, outstretched fingers. Flowers bloomed to each side and lush water plants framed the inlet. One trail-side treat was a small stand of cardinal flower, its bright blooms flashing red from amongst the verdant tangle beside the path. I tuned east along the south shore

The south shore was everything I could have hoped for. In fact, despite the throngs of people I had encountered on the north shore, I do not believe I passed a single soul in the three miles I traipsed on the south. There were some curiosities though, like vinyl siding dangling high in a tall thin sapling. This was probably the result of recent storms – there were a lot of freshly downed trees – although the nearest residential neighborhood was over a half-mile away. I could see weekend revelers on the other side of the pond, but their shouts were not reaching me, and I hiked on in blissful silence.

I was still regularly crossing bridges, counting down from twenty-seven which had followed bridge número uno at the recreation center on the north shore. About midway along the quiet side of the pond, I came to number sixteen. Sweet sixteen was long and low, crossing a swampy area rather than a stream or inlet, and continued for at least a hundred yards, making it easily New Castle County’s longest bridge. Well, at Lums Pond, anyway.

Beyond bridge sixteen, I passed the Lums Pond State Park Campground, where I could hear other humans but not see them. The trail twisted and turned before turning sharply up what is almost certainly St. Georges Creek flowing out of the pond and into the nearby Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. This fourteen mile inland waterway connects the Delaware River with the Chesapeake Bay by way of the Elk River. I followed St. Georges Creek back to the pond. A narrow bridge conveyed me across the creek to continue my journey east. Eventually, I rounded the northeast tip of the reservoir and hiked the last half-mile back to the parking area.

Lums Pond is a beautiful area and a relaxing low-key hike. I rarely rate hikes over five miles as “easy”, but I felt this one deserved that rank since there is virtually no elevation, and the trail is mostly smooth and clear. If you’re looking for more mileage, the Little Jersey Trail meanders around the park and intersects frequently with the Swamp Forest Trail. Nearby is also the Ben Cardin Recreational Trail which begins in Chesapeake City, MD and runs 14.4 miles along the C&D Canal to Delaware City. It changes to the Michael N. Castle Trail at the Maryland/Delaware border. Located roughly equidistant to Baltimore and Philadelphia, Lums Pond is convenient to parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. Check it out, and if you love little wooden bridges, you may just find your happy place! ♦

Date: September 12, 2020
Location: Bear, DE
Trailhead: 39.568579, -75.708782
Distance: 6.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 157 feet
Difficulty: Easy

BIT|Hiker acknowledges the indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of the lands on which we hike. Our research for this post indicated we were on ancestral lands of the Nentego (Nanticoke).

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