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Situated at the mouth of the Delaware Bay along the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Henlopen has been open to the public for centuries since William Penn, the founder of the nearby state of Pennsylvania, decreed the area as public lands for the Delaware colony in 1682. Over 200 years later, it officially became Cape Henlopen State Park.
Throughout those 200 years, Cape Henlopen served as a strategic location for many branches of the U.S. military. During the American Revolution, the Henlopen Lighthouse became a lookout for the Continental Army. In the War of 1812, the Cape’s dense trees and terrain deterred the British as they bombarded the nearby town of Lewes for food and supplies. During World War I, a small naval base was built.
Yet, it wasn’t until World War II that a major military presence was established. In 1941, the Army built Fort Miles, a massive military base including 250 buildings, 16 underground bunkers, and concrete observation towers, like the one pictured above. Germany had listed the Delaware Valley as a target during the War due to its manufacturing capabilities, so the U.S. built Fort Miles to monitor and control aerial and maritime activity around the Bay.
Along with the military base, the Cape’s terrain once again aided the Army. Dunes were raised to camouflage guns, ammunition, and bunkers. The observation towers were used to help aim the 16-inch guns hidden in the dunes. Today, many observation towers still remain and are now used for fire control and recreation.
Following the War, the area became Cape Henlopen State Park in 1964. The 5,193-acre Park is open year-round and is a popular spot for beachgoers to fish, bike, surf, and of course, explore the many remnants of For Miles among the dunes.
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