When the first Europeans sailed up the Delaware River in the late 1500s, Mud Island was one of several low-lying islands in a huge marsh near where two large rivers met - the Schuykill and the Delaware.
In those days the marsh was full of wildlife. The native people, the Lenape (len ah' pay), had been foraging, fishing and hunting this abundant wetland for centuries.
In fall and winter, millions of wild ducks and geese spread across the marsh in giant flocks. In the spring, shad, sturgeon and striped bass swam up-river in crowded schools to spawn. Oysters and freshwater mussels grew in thick layers on the muddy bottom. Muskrats made their homes among the cattails. Herons and egrets nested in solitude and safety.
Riches Among the Reeds
European traders saw economic opportunity in the vast marsh and hired Lenape hunters to bring them furs of beaver, otter, mink and muskrat for export to Europe. Hunters and settlers exploited the wildlife so intensely that even before William Penn arrived in 1682, the beaver were almost gone from the region.