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The Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary: Random Road Trip to Slaughter Beach, Delaware

Updated on May 13, 2012
Mispillion Lighthouse
Mispillion Lighthouse | Source

Mispillion Lighthouse

Slaughter Beach, Delaware is not necessarily your average tourist destination, though I’m not your average tourist either. It is home to about 200 residents and was once the home of the Mispillion Lighthouse, the only wooden framed lighthouse still standing in the state. The Lighthouse was hit by lightening in 2002, and was nearly destroyed, but was purchased and moved some time later. Slaughter Beach may be most well known for the horseshoe crabs that gather there each year to lay their eggs.

Horseshoe Crab
Horseshoe Crab | Source
Birds on the Beach
Birds on the Beach | Source

Bird Watching

There is some attraction for tourists looking to watch the birds that gather on the beaches to eat the eggs laid by the horseshoe crabs. Due to the environmental importance of the area it has been designated as a horseshoe crab sanctuary, and the residents have adopted the horseshoe crab as the official town symbol.

Where Did the Name Come From?

There is uncertainty as to how the town got its name. One story is that it was named after a local postmaster named William Slaughter who lived sometime during the eighteen hundreds. Or it may be because many of the horseshoe crabs that lay their eggs in the shallow water get stuck during low tide, stranding them and ultimately delivering them to their deaths. Another tale is of a man who; in order to prevent an impending massacre, slaughtered several indigenous people there sometime in the 18th century.

Pick a Spot

I had never really heard of Slaughter Beach before the day my family and I decided we needed to get away just to unwind and refresh. It was a common practice for us to decide on the spur of the moment that it was time to take a road trip, especially if it was a three day weekend. Many times we had no destination we just chose a direction and drove, or we might have a place in mind but no plans based on that destination. This time we got out a map and I covered my eyes and pointed. The closest place to where I pointed was Slaughter Beach, Delaware. I admit that I purposely tried to aim somewhere near the ocean, but it was still just a random location with no meaning except a dot on a map and the place where I would soon be.

White House
White House | Source
Washington Monument
Washington Monument | Source

Washington DC

We were used to these trips so it was a quick job getting ready to go. We packed a few changes of clothes, a cooler, and a few games and DVD’s for the kids and we were on our way. Along the way we realized that we would be passing right by the capitol; Washington D.C. we had never been there so we decided to check it out. We arrived at about eight or so in the morning and wound up spending most of the day there. We visited the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and surrounding area, the National Mall and the Washington Monument. We observed a few other places of interest as well, not to mention what we seen when we were lost and trying to find our next destination. We thought about getting a hotel but decided to wait until we got to Delaware.

The Drive

The drive had been relaxing so far and I just wanted to cruise on into Delaware and then find a place to rest for the night. It didn’t take long to get into Delaware so we decided to drive on till we seen the ocean. We reached the ocean just after sunset; I was a bit disappointed as I had hoped to see the sun set over the water. We soon realized that there really wasn’t a good place to access the beach there near the town so we headed south looking for a place where we could park and check out the ocean.

Slaughter Beach, Delaware

A markerSlaughter Beach, Delaware -
Slaughter Beach, DE 19963, USA
get directions

Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary

Where Were We?

I’m not sure exactly where we wound up but after driving for some time we eventually found what seemed like a peninsula. It was dark so it was hard to tell but I thought ocean was on either side of us. Looking at the map now I can’t place exactly where we were, unless maybe the water on the one side of us was a large pond or lake. There were no houses or other cars so we stopped a few times to check out what was there. The land went about fifty yards one way and one hundred and fifty yards the other before running into water. The side that was farther away was a drop off so we didn’t check it out much but the other side was a beach. We got our feet wet by the edge but it was difficult to see so we decided not to check out the water any more than that, not to mention the water was a bit cold. We followed the road all the way to a point where it ended and we could go no farther. It seemed like the strip of land went on a good ways but the road ended. The first thing we noticed after walking up over the small hill by the road and on to the beach was that there were these animals lying all over the beach. We cautiously checked them out and discovered that they were all dead. We didn’t know what they were at the time but after some discussion we decided that we thought they were stingrays. Of course they weren’t as we later learned; they were actually horseshoe crabs. It just seemed odd that they were lying all over the place dead.

Stick Symbols
Stick Symbols | Source

What's Really Going On?

We walked along the beach a good distance talking and enjoying the ocean air, with the waves periodically touching our feet. I saw a place in the distance that looked like a circular fire pit. As we approached we seen that it was and it was surrounded by symbols that had been constructed by sticks and rope. They immediately reminded me of the symbols that were used in the movie the Blair Witch Project. I don’t usually get freaked out easily, but for some reason I just had a bad feeling and decided it was time to get out of there. We hurried back to the car and headed out. Not far down the road car lights appeared from behind us though we had passed no houses or roads or vehicles. I was officially freaked out at this point though I didn’t want my kids to know it. They were talking about it and I assured them the there was a road, though I don’t think there was. The car followed us through several turns but after about a half an hour just seemed to disappear. Shortly after that we all noticed that we were itching all over. We could find no bumps or bites or any visible reason why we would be itching but we were. It was a very strange trip indeed, but it was fun and we now have a story to tell.

Do you like to take random road trips?

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    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      nmdonders, This trip was a blast, it was a bit scary at one point, but after the fact that made it even more fun. I am due to take another trip, but just started a new job so it might be a while. Thanks for stopping by, I hope your day is terrific.

    • nmdonders profile image

      Nira Perkins 5 years ago

      This sounds like it'd be a blast. I love road trips just about anywhere. Cool how you documented it.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Redberry Sky, Thank you for reading and for your kind words. I like to travel but haven't been able to much recently, so I figured I'd write about some of the places I've been to relive the good times. Thanks again, have a nice evening.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      I don't travel widely - I've only ever been outside of the UK a few times in my life - but I love reading about all the strange and wonderful things in the world that others have seen. This is a kind of haunting and beautiful story of your adventure, I loved it from start to finish, dmop, you have a real gift for engaging people with words :)

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      AliciaC, it was a very fun trip, even with the strange occurrence. Thanks for reading and for the comment, have a great day.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting story about an interesting trip, dmop! I'd very much like to visit a horseshoe crab sanctuary, even if I had a strange visit like you did!

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Peggy W, yes we have a great time just going somewhere without really having a plan, I like it that way. I think I'm due for a random trip now, but must get some things in order first. Perhaps when I finally get my first payment from HubPages I will use it to help finance a quick get away. Thank you for reading and for the nice comment, have a great day.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It sounds like you have a lot of fun with those random road trips. Thanks for telling us about the lighthouse, the horseshoe crabs and Slaughter Beach in Delaware. I think you are right that it was probably sand fleas...but who knows. Ha! Voted up and interesting. Thanks!

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Dolores Monet, We only seen it at night so we didn't really get to check it out to well, of course I had no idea about the horseshoe crabs or the birds at the time. I suppose you're right we wouldn't have really gotten to see the sunset over the water even if we had made it there before dark. Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comment, enjoy your day.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I've always wanted to check out Slaughter Beach - the bird watching is supposed to be great when the horseshoe crabs come in. Just wondering - how did you expect to watch the sun going down if you were on the west side of the water, facing east? Ha, ha.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Bob, Thanks for stopping in to read another of my hubs. It is a cool looking lighthouse isn't it; too bad it wasn't there when we visited, it had already been moved at that point. You know I thought of maybe sand fleas or stinging nettles, but never really considered the raised histamine levels, you never know you could be right.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      teaches12345, thanks for stopping by my Hub and for the nice comment. The lighthouse is impressive isn't it. It was an interesting trip but we had a lot of fun and made some good memories. Thanks again have a fantastic day.

    • Civil War Bob profile image

      Civil War Bob 5 years ago from Glenside, Pennsylvania

      Another good hub, dmop. What a cool looking lighthouse! I could see living there with the top as my computer room! Oh, the itching may have be raised histamine levels from nervous agitation. I sometimes get irritated and go into a sneezing fit from the histamines in my system, hence, my suggestion. Enjoy your day!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      You found a great place to visit. It looks like a great place to just enjoy a little at a time and it will prove relaxing. The lighthouse itself is very impressive. Great write up and thoughts on this "stumbled upon" visit. Voted up.