Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ 8-1-15

Since next Saturday I start my big trip out west I decided to take it easy this weekend by visiting a local spot. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located in Morris County New Jersey, only about 30 minutes from my home so there was really no good reason not to check it out.


Sign welcoming you to the Wildlife Observation Center

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was declared a National Natural Landmark in May 1966 and the eastern side of the refuge was designated as wilderness by Congress in 1968. The Great Swamp is the remnant of a lake bottom of the once-mighty Glacial Lake Passaic that about 15,000 to 11,000 years ago covered an area of close to 300 sq miles. The lake was formed by the melting waters of the retreating Wisconsin Glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. The glacier had pushed a moraine ahead of its advance, a combination of soil and rocks that plugged the existing outlet for the waters that drained into the area normally, so as the retreating glacier melted, the waters rose to create the lake before a new outlet began to allow the water to exit at a much higher elevation. This area still forms one quarter of the watershed which feeds the Passaic river today.

The park today has several trails in addition to the observation center which is what I visited today. I would have checked out the actual trails but since it was very hot and I did not feel like getting eaten by endless bugs, I took the easy way out. The observation area is a series of boarded walkways through the woods which also offer some observation decks where you could do some bird watching. I saw several other people with binoculars doing just that but given I had no real bird watching gear or skills I did not see much.


Boarded walkways


Observation building


View from the observation building

All in all what I saw was a pretty simple outdoor experience but I will say it is a very nice park. In the woods you do get a good sense of being somewhere else which is nice given how close to everything you are in this area. I would recommend if you are in the area it is worth making a trip to check out the area but unless you are into bird watching it may not be worth going a very long way for. Although I did see a license plate from Ontario in the parking lot!


The walkways are throughout this area of the refuge

Once the weather cools off a bit and the bugs start to clear out I would like to come back and check out the actual trails. I think for being so close to home it is a cool place that could be fun to explore.


Trail map for the Wilderness area trails.




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