Memorial Day is here; let’s talk eels, turtles, frogs and toads

New Burton Pond bridge could help animals up stream; watch out for slow movers on the road
May 26, 2023

Story Location:
Burtons Pond
Route 24
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

Every year, in late February and early March, freshwater streams and rivers along the eastern United States are inundated with eels in larvae form that have made the journey from the Sargasso Sea. If everything goes correctly, an eel will grow for years before returning to the sea as an adult to reproduce. The problem is many of the waterways, including ones in Delaware, are now blocked with dams.

That’s where organizations like Center for the Inland Bays lend the eels a hand. The center has installed a number of eelways, or eel ladders, to assist eels in their journey to freshwater destinations.

A couple of years ago, I went with Zach Garmoe, Center for the Inland Bays science coordinator, to check on the eelway at the bridge crossing the eastern prong of Burton Pond. He was going there to get an eel count and to also make sure the solar-powered equipment was functioning.

Taking place two years ago, April 2021, I hadn’t given that experience much thought until I came across the recent construction on that bridge. Seeing the improvements being made on the bridge for vehicles had me wondering if, after this construction was done, the waterway might actually be more accessible to the eels in future years. I reached out to Garmoe to see if my intuition was correct. The answer is yes, potentially.

Garmoe said the eelway was removed during construction, so no eels made the passage this spring, but the system will be reinstalled to allow for passage in future years.

Garmoe said the new bridge has infrastructure in place allowing for the future installation of a higher-quality fish ladder, which would also allow for eel passage, but there is no funding or plans to do so at this time. 

“Regular movement will return next year and will continue to improve as we tweak our design,” said Garmo. “If funding becomes available for a project like this, a fish ladder could be installed, which would benefit a wider range of species, but we have no plans to install one at the moment.”

So, you’re saying there’s a chance – it just doesn’t sound cheap.

It’s that time of year…watch out for turtles

Write enough stories about a subject as a reporter, and you will inevitably end up on the email list of a group supporting the issue you’ve written about. I’m assuming that’s why I got an email in early May from a group in Malibu, Calif., called American Tortoise Rescue. I have, in fact, written a couple of stories about turtles over the years.

Describing itself as “an international nonprofit organization established in 1990 for the protection of turtles and tortoises,” the rescue sent a press release advancing World Turtle Day, which has apparently taken place May 23 every year, since 2000.

Well, a couple of days removed from World Turtle Day is as good a time as any to remind people that they could come across a turtle on pretty much every road around here, especially for the next couple of months when they’re out and about acting like 20-something-year-olds in Dewey Beach on a long weekend with nothing to lose. There are turtles living in the bays, trying to cross busy roads to lay eggs in sand. There are turtles living in the wooded portions of the same freshwater streams as the eels and near vernal pools, trying to navigate the county roads that humans have trouble navigating.

I’m not encouraging anyone to risk their personal safety, just to watch out for our slow-moving friends.

And now a joke involving frogs and toads…

What’s about to come isn’t really a joke – more of a play on words – but I found it funny when I saw it hanging over the garage door of a house in Rehoboth Beach. I already knew I was writing about eels and turtles, so I figured I might as well round this column out with more creatures that live in the local shallow waters. Plus, it is Memorial Day, which means parking rules are in effect everywhere and vehicles really will be towed. As always, send jokes to

Message on sign: Frog parking only. All others will be toad.


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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