This 313-acre Milford Millponds Nature Preserve features trails open to the public, a preserved gristmill, a pond, meadows, an animal collection, and educational programs. Support Abbott's Mill Nature Center »

Run the Mill Trail 5K Run 2017 at Abbott's Mill Nature Center.  Sat Jun 3.  8 am Arrive, 9 am Run/walk begins. 5K Trail Run followed by a well-earned Dogfish beer, food, live music, and more. $25 per person. Registration required.
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35 years of Abbott's Mill

 
Abbott's Mill Nature Center

A land full of historical and natural treasures

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is Delaware Nature Society's hidden gem of southern Delaware nestled just 4 miles outside of Milford. Abbott’s encompasses towering upland forests, restored native meadows, pristine ponds fed by sinuous streams, mystic Atlantic white cedar swamps, dynamic freshwater wetland and saltmarsh preserves, and Delaware’s only preserved, working grist mill.

Abbott's Mill Nature Center

Abbott's Mill 1795 - 1963

Our story begins with the establishment of our namesake in 1795, when Nathan Willey bought a 20-acre pond and adjoining 7-acre property to build a stone grist mill for the production of corn meal. A driving economic force of its time, our mill survived a fire, a flood, several renovations, and 16 different owners throughout its 221-year life. The last owner/operator was Ainsworth Abbott, who purchased the property in 1919 at the young age of 23. After 44 years at the helm, Ainsworth decided to hang up his hat and sell the mill property to Howard and Frances Killen in October of 1963. The Killen’s, wishing to preserve its historic and cultural importance, decided a week later to sell the mill property to the Delaware Board of Game & Fish Commissioners (Division of Fish & Wildlife now) in 3 phases over 1963 - 1965.

Abbott's Mill Nature Center

Abbott's Mill restored and declared a Historic Place

The mill facilities and adjoining 7-acre parcel along Johnson’s Branch were later transferred to Delaware’s Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs in 1975, for the intentional use of public recreation and education. The mill facilities were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and a multi-year effort was undertaken to restore the mill to working order, through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Interior, Delaware’s General Assembly, and the Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs. The construction work included the building of a small classroom facility, which became our current Visitor Center through an addition in 1997.

Abbott's Mill Nature Center

Abbott's Mill Nature Center commissioned - educational programs begin!

In 1980, the then Delaware Nature Education Society leased the Abbott’s Mill properties as its third state-wide facility. Our Executive Director at the time, Mr. Norman G. Wilder, had been the head of Delaware’s Board of Game & Fish Commissioners (Division of Fish & Wildlife now) when the state originally purchased Abbott’s, and was therefore able to guide Delaware Nature Society to be the sole lessee. Educational programming by Delaware Nature Society began during the summer of 1980, with construction underway, and then on June 7, 1981, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center was officially commissioned as a lasting partnership between Delaware’s Division of Fish & Wildlife, Division of Historical & Cultural Affairs, and Delaware Nature Society.

Abbott's Mill Nature Center

Abbott's Mill today

Over the Abbott's Mill Nature Center has grown from its 27-acre humble beginnings to include 483-acres of conserved lands throughout Sussex County, including our surrounding Blair’s Pond 5K Trail, Isaac Tract, and Isaacs-Greene Preserve, as well as our Marvel Saltmarsh Preserve in Slaughter Beach, Delaware. Our robust environmental education and public visitation programs have reached over 50,000 students and families since 2012, advancing our mission to improve our environment by connecting people to the natural world through education, advocacy, and conservation. Abbott’s Mill still runs to this day, with monthly public tours offer every spring – fall, and student groups exploring the history and engineering that keeps it alive.

Abbott's Mill Nature Center

Come by and discover!

We hope you will come by soon to explore our trails, Visitor Center, working grist mill, and more!

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