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3 Facts You Didn’t Know About Delaware’s Inland Bays

1 – Blowing Open an Inlet

What makes the Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman Bays considered Inland Bays? The long strip of barrier beach and the Indian River Inlet make all the difference. This is where the freshwater rivers and streams of Sussex County mix with the salty Atlantic.

You likely recognize the Indian River Inlet by its iconic bridge, lit up at night in brilliant blue. But the inlet itself was not always located where it is today. With the natural movement of the ocean waves over the centuries, the inlet has moved and broken through the beach dunes up and down the coast.

In 1928, though, this all changed. In order to accommodate boats heading into the bays (and eventually a road), the Delaware General Assembly and the 6th Indian River Inlet Commission decided force open an inlet and stabilize it.

How did they do it? Explosives, of course! The the sand was loaded with explosives and blown open at its current location. Later, in 1939 it was stabilized with stone jetties.

Over the years, five bridges have spanned the inlet’s waters, including today’s iconic Charles W. Cullen Bridge which was completed in 2012.


Photos provided by Delaware Seashore State Park

2  – First, try standing up!

The average depth throughout the Inland Bays is pretty shallow. Of course, there are channels that are somewhat deep – if you’ve ever travelled by boat across the bays, you’ve navigated their depths.

There are also sandbars scattered throughout the bays. These shallow areas where sand has collected can be seen best at low tide. It’s not uncommon to see people “walking on water” around the bays, taking a break from boating and relaxing in the cool waves.

But would you believe that the average depth of the Inland Bays is a mere 4.5 feet deep?

While it is still a good idea to wear a life jacket when out on the bays (or any body or water for that matter), if you ever do fall in – first, try standing up.


Boaters anchor just off of a sand dune in Indian River Bay , 2016

3 – Fishes, Dolphins, Seals and…Whales?

Fishes, dolphins and seals are a common sight in the Indian River Bay, depending on the time of year. But due to their shallow waters, the bays do not typically play host to other larger creatures.


One exception to this rule occurred in January 2007 when two Right whales, mother and baby, swam into the Indian River Inlet! Perhaps realizing their mistake, they eventually turned around and headed back out to sea – but not before giving us quite the show!


A Right whale swims in the Indian River Inlet, 2007



About the Author



Originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, Nivette completed her Bachelor's in Coastal Marine Biology at the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao. She then went on to complete her Masters of Science in Natural Resources through Delaware State University as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center in Dover, Delaware.

Before her work at the Center, she held a field technician position with Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and worked as an independent consultant for the Caribbean Fishery Management Council.  Through these experiences, she interacted with numerous recreational and commercial anglers learning first-hand about fisheries and aquatic ecosystems. These interactions motivated her passion for science communications.

In her spare time, she can be found training Krav-Maga, helping organize events to promote outdoor recreation like Delaware’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, working to increase Diversity and Inclusion in the fisheries sciences with the Equal Opportunity Section of the American Fisheries Society, hiking Delaware’s trails or fishing Delaware’s waterways with friends and family.

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