When I went down to Dyke Marsh it was all a new area to me and I could see that there were little passageways through the marsh and so on. I learned only recently that all those places have names. People went in there to trap turtles and fish. You still see fishermen going in there who know the marsh quite well. I understand during prohibition there was often a still in there. People went fishing there on the docks to the West Grove Plantation, the area which is now Belle Haven Country Club "Plantation." When you go to history you find references to Hunting Creek that date back to about 1690. Someone had a fort where Hunting Towers is now. I'm sort of interested in the modern period.
Dyke Marsh has had a lot of valuable sand, valuable to construction people so that property rights were bought up by a company called Smoot Sand and Gravel. Up until about five years ago there was dredging out there, pumping sand which they sell to a concrete company. There were some people in the area who saw that this was a valuable resource being dredged away and put pressure on Congress and a bill was passed about twenty years ago that got this property from Smoot, Sand and Gravel not for money, but for some land exchange. At any rate Dyke Marsh is now the property of the Department of the Interior. It was designated as a sanctuary and it is a water fowl refuge and so we shouldn't expect to see it developed. I just say expect because you can't really rely on anything.
There was an article in 1952 "Atlantic Naturalist" about "Shall Dyke Marsh be saved." This is 25 years ago and people were concerned about preserving this valuable piece of property. After Congress passed its law someone called up the Department of the Interior to find out what they were doing to preserve the wildlife there, and the reply was "I am not aware that anything is being done."
The reason it is sort of interesting is that the birds are coming and going all the time. One man's been keeping track and he's seen about 140 different species just around Dyke Marsh. You don't have very many places to see that many different kinds of birds. Last week there was an Iceland tern, no an Icelandic gull, which came from the Arctic. You can see world travelers down there: You can experience the river.
I go down there to watch birds. Most people call themselves "birders." You go to the birds' habitat. You go down south of Hunting Towers and there's the Belle Haven Picnic area. Park the car there, then walk south, going towards the Marina and there's an entrance way with a wire fence and a wooden fence to keep motorcycles out. If you want to, join the crowd about 8 o'clock in the morning on Saturdays. Anyone's welcome. It's kind of an introduction to the marsh to go with a group of people. They Point out various kinds of birds as you walk along.