The Port of Delaware City is a vibrant town with lots of buildings reflecting the late 19th Century Greek revival and Victorian architectural styles, many of them on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been home to the premiere Little Brown Jug Harness Race since the race began in 1954. This picturesque town is the entrance to natural treasures like the marshes of the Delaware Estuary and to important historic sites like Forts Delaware and DuPont. The Port of Delaware City is also home to the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The Port of Delaware City's Historic District contains more than 200 buildings reflecting architectural styles that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Port of Delaware City also offers adventures for outdoor lovers who want to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, or watch birds.
The Port of Delaware City has a humid subtropical climate with warm humid summers and cool winters. Temperatures range from an average high of 30°C (86°F) in July to an average low of -5°C (23°F) in January. Receiving about 43 inches of precipitation each year, July is both the warmest and the wettest month.
The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D Canal) is one of the United States' two commercially active sea-level canals. Running for 22.5 kilometers (14 miles) across Delaware and Maryland, the canal terminus at the Port of Delaware City connects the Delaware River with the Chesapeake Bay and the Port of Baltimore. Owned and Operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers' Philadelphia District, this modern electronically-controlled commercial waterway carries almost half (40 percent) of the ship traffic that moves through the Port of Baltimore. The canal has been important to the Port of Delaware City's economic life since it was called Newbold's Landing in the early 19th Century.
Visitors to the Port of Delaware City will not want to miss a visit to Fort Delaware. During the American Civil War, thousands of Confederate soldiers were held as prisoners here. Accessible by the Three Forts Ferry that departs from Battery Park in the Port of Delaware City, visitors will get a taste of what it was like to live at the fort in 1863. People dressed in period costumes play the roles of the Union soldiers, blacksmiths, laundresses, and prisoners.
Fort Delaware was constructed with granite and brick. Its massive 9.1-meter (30-foot) thick walls stood 9.8 meters (32 feet) tall, and it was equipped with the most modern defenses of the 19th Century. By the end of the Civil War, almost 22.8 thousand men - soldiers, officers, and prisoners - occupied the Fort Delaware. Well known as a haunted place, television's Ghost Hunters traveled to Port of Delaware City and conducted paranormal investigations at Fort Delaware in October 2009. The Fort has continued to hold paranormal events since then.
Located on the 310-acre Pea Patch Island less than a mile off the Port of Delaware City's shores, a bird sanctuary occupies the northern part of the island while the fort is on the southern end. A 1.2 kilometer (0.75 mile) nature trail with an observation tower allows visitors to observe Great Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, Great Egret, and Tri-color Heron.
Finn's Point National Cemetery is not part of the Three Forts Ferry tour, but it will be interesting for people interested in Civil War history. The cemetery is located at the north end of the old Fort Mott Military Reservation about 4.5 kilometers (almost 3 miles) north of the Port of Delaware City across the Delaware River. The national cemetery, operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, was the burial site for many of the 2700 Confederate prisoners who died at Fort Delaware during the Civil War. Further, the Cemetery is adjacent to Fort Mott State Park. It was designated a National Cemetery in 1875.
Second of the three forts is Fort DuPont. Located at the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in the southeastern Port of Delaware City, Fort DuPont was the site for cannons that protected the Delaware River during the War of 1812. The first permanent structures were built here during the American Civil War when the Ten Gun Battery was installed. Located across the river from Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, it was called "The Fort Opposite" during the war. Fort DuPont was improved in the 1870s and again in the 1890s during the Spanish-American War. Many of the fort's gun emplacements and bunkers remain at the site today.
Fort DuPont in the Port of Delaware City was brought into service again in the 20th Century during World Wars I and II. Between these two major wars, the fort was headquarters for the First Engineers Regiment. During World War II, more than three thousand military workers were stationed here, and over one thousand prisoners of war from Rommel's Afrika Korps were held prisoner. The Port of Delaware City's Fort DuPont also has nature trails and a boat launch. Part of Fort DuPont State Park is the Grass Dale natural area where six habitat types can be found within a 100-yard radius.
The third fort included in the Three Fort Ferry ride is Fort Mott. Construction began on Fort Mott in 1872 and ceased in 1976. Even though the fort became obsolete after World War I when Fort Saulsbury was built near Milford, Delaware, troops were stationed there from 1897 until 1922. From 1923 until 1943, the US government maintained the fort. In 1947, the State of New Jersey acquired Fort Mott as a historic site and opened it as a public park in 1951. Fort Mott State Park offers a Nature Interpretive Trail, which is accessible to people with disabilities, for beginning hikers. It also has picnic areas, tables, and shelters. Larger groups can reserve the Group Picnic area, which can hold 100 people, with its playfields and playground equipment.
Departing from the Port of Delaware City, the Three Forts Ferry is the transportation for visiting the State Parks of Fort Delaware, Fort DuPont, and Fort Mott. The round-trip boat trip from April through October. Passengers will experience reenactments of both military and civilian Civil War events, lantern tools of the fort at night, and evening fireworks displays that can be seen from both side of the river at Fort Mott or in the Port of Delaware City. The Ferry operates on weekends from late May through early September. In mid-June, the ferry opens for Wednesday excursions. Departing from the Excursion Landing in the Port of Delaware City at 10am, 11am, 11:30am, noon, and 1pm the round trip, including stops at the forts, lasts three hours.