Places We Protect

Pemberton Forest Preserve


Tall thin trees line the edge of a marshy wetland.
Wetlands at Pemberton Forest Emergent wetlands at the Pemberton Forest Preserve, Delaware © Steven Billups

Expanding protected areas, tract by tract, creating a respite for humans and nature.



The Pemberton Forest Preserve represents a place where TNC is putting things back together. This began in 1999 when the chapter acquired the first of two parcels that make up the preserve, the Pemberton Tract and the Ponders Tract. 

While the preserve’s Pemberton Tract is not open to the public, the Ponders Tract has plenty of trails suitable for the public’s enjoyment.

The 456-acre Pemberton Tract, comprised of three properties acquired from the Chesapeake Corporation, gave the preserve its name. Situated in the midst of forest lands owned by the State of Delaware, privately owned rural properties and tree farms, this modest beginning permanently protected some of Delaware’s most significant plant and animal communities. 

Owing to its former history as a tree farm, much of the Pemberton Tract contains patches of native upland deciduous forest interspersed with thick stands of young loblolly pine. A wide section of relatively undisturbed native mixed hardwood forest growing on soft and highly erodible sloped soils protects a headwaters stream. Original logging roads present when TNC purchased this tract are rapidly returning to a natural forest community, making the Pemberton Tract landscape difficult to traverse. 

Five years after purchasing the Pemberton Tract, TNC added the 908-acre Ponders Tract to the preserve. Since acquiring the Ponders Tract in 2004, TNC has thinned a former loblolly pine plantation, planted habitat islands and thousands of native hardwood tree seedlings as a way of welcoming back the native coastal hardwood forest that once covered the landscape. While reforestation will take years, we hope it will serve as a model for future efforts across the state.



The Ponders Tract is open to the public, the Pemberton Tract is not.


North-central Sussex County, DE

Map with marker: Hybrid road and topographic map showing an orange pointer centered midway between Dover, DE and Salisbury, MD.


1,364 acres located in two distinct tracts: the 456-acre Pemberton Tract and the 908-acre Ponders Tract

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The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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