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Murderkill River
Murderkill River.jpg
The Murderkill River downstream of Killens Pond in 2006
Country United States
State Delaware
County Kent
Physical characteristics
Main source near Felton
River mouth Delaware Bay
Bowers
3 ft (0.91 m)
Length 22 mi (35 km)
Basin features
Basin size 106 sq mi (270 km2)
Tributaries
Waterbodies Killen Pond
Coursey Pond

The Murderkill River is a river flowing to Delaware Bay in central Delaware in the United States. It is approximately 21.7 miles (34.9 km) long and drains an area of 106 square miles (270 km2) on the Atlantic Coastal Plain.

The Murderkill flows for its entire length in southern Kent County. It rises just west of Felton and flows generally east-northeastwardly, through Killen Pond (site of Killens Pond State Park) and Coursey Pond, under Carpenters Bridge, and past Frederica to Bowers, where it enters Delaware Bay about 0.5 miles (1 km) south of the mouth of the St. Jones River. The Murderkill River is tidally influenced from its mouth upstream to just past Frederica, and is considered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be navigable for the lower 10 miles (16 km) of its course.

According to 2002 data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 55% of the area of the Murderkill River's watershed is occupied by agricultural uses; 17% is forested; 14% is urban; 9% is wetland; and 2% is water.

Origin of name

Dick Carter, Chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission, states that the name of Murderkill River is taken from the original Dutch for Mother River. Mother is moeder in Middle Dutch, and river is Kille. Later, under British rule, the word "River" was added to the waterway's name, effectively making it "mother river river." The term "kill" is used in areas of Dutch influence in the Netherlands' former North American colony of New Netherland, primarily the Hudson and Delaware Valleys to describe a creek, river, tidal inlet, strait, or arm of the, sea such as Bronx Kill in New York and Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania.

Delaware's creeks and rivers are slow-moving and there is deep mud associated with marshy rivers. Dutch "modder" = mud, a false cognate to "mother." Modder Kill = Muddy Creek or Muddy River. The word is still used in Dutch, such as this Dutch video of a tractor stuck in mud ("vast in de modder").

Also, in New York there is Muddy Kill, with a clear connection to the older Dutch name.

Variant names

According to the Geographic Names Information System, the Murderkill River has also been known historically as:

  • Mordare Kijhlen
  • Mother Creek
  • Mother Kill
  • Motherkill
  • Motherkiln Creek
  • Mothers Creek
  • Murder Kill Creek
  • Murther Creek
  • Murtherkill
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