Friday, May 1, 2015

Spring at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Spring is a popular time to visit New Jersey's Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Although it is just 26 miles from New York City’s Times Square, the refuge consists of 7,768 acres of varied habitats, and the refuge has become an important resting and feeding area for more than 244 species of birds. Fox, deer, muskrat, fish, and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants can be found on the refuge.

People are encouraged to observe, study, photograph and walk with nature in designated public areas. The best times for observing wildlife are early in the morning and late afternoon. Because of large number of visitors in the spring and fall, wildlife viewing on Sundays is often crowded.

The refuge has close to 11 1/2 miles of foot access trails, with varying difficulty from which wildlife can be viewed. There are also three wildlife observation blinds and one wildlife overlook. Pleasant Plains Road is a good place to view wildlife from your vehicle.

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge also recommends that you visit nearby the Raptor Trust (for information please call 908-647-8211), the Somerset County Environmental Educational Center (for information please call 908-766-2489) and the Morris County Outdoor Education Center (for information please call 973-635-6629). There is also the Watchung Reservation, Morristown Historical Park, Sherman Hoffman Aubudon Center and several other outdoor recreation areas located close to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Red Fox kit - Photo by Matt Sullivan
Know Before You Go
  • The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is open year-round from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Occasionally, the refuge is closed due to special events or hazardous weather conditions (e.g. flooding/snow). Call ahead to insure they are open: 973-425-1222.
  • You should start your visit at the Helen C Fenske Visitor Center Thursday-Friday 12am-4pm or Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm to orient yourself to the refuge. There you can learn the history and find where the wildlife hotspot of the day is. 
  • While out on the refuge, waterproof footgear or old sneakers are recommended during most seasons in the Wilderness Area. Mosquitoes, ticks, and deer flies may be numerous from May to September throughout the refuge, so insect repellent and protective clothing are advisable. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, which has been found in the area.
Download the refuge brochure (pdf)

More information at

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