Step back in history approximately 75,000 years. An enormous glacier covers most of what is now Canada and a significant portion of the northern United States. The Wisconsin Glacial Period (named after the state where sedimentary evidence from the glacier was discovered) caused significant changes to the land beneath its mammoth ice sheet. As the glacier melted and retreated, it left behind an enormous lake in northern New Jersey, measuring approximately thirty miles in length and ten miles in width. The lake sat at a high elevation, and eventually drained into the Passaic River, leaving behind a 7,800-acre swamp.
Fast forward in time to the mid-1950s. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to turn the area into an airport to handle the increased aviation traffic of the New York metropolitan area. Local residents oppose the plan, and to fight the airport proposal, they pool their resources to purchase as much of the land as possible. The residents then donate the territory in its entirety to the Federal government. It becomes the first federal wilderness area, and helps to establish the National Wildlife Refuge System, part of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (via Wikipedia).
Today, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is a 12-square mile park that is home to numerous permanent and migratory birds. The park is open to the public, with over 11 miles of trails offering numerous opportunities to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. On a beautiful Sunday morning in early July, my wife and I set our GPS for the town of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to spend some quality time outdoors.
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Before closing, I wanted to share some updates on the status of the two vehicles in our fleet – my wife’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and, of course, my 2012 Honda Accord coupe.
Every time my wife and I drive north along I-287 in New Jersey, we have seen signs for Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and have passed it without a second thought. Receiving little fanfare and attention, Great Swamp is truly a hidden gem in New Jersey, and a worthwhile spot for wildlife and birding enthusiasts. The park is open during daylight hours, and the visitor center is open Tuesday and Saturday from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, and Thursday, Friday, and Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Best of all, the park is free of charge. One note: many rules are in place to to avoid disturbing the wildlife in the park, so drones are forbidden, and pets are not allowed on the trails.
Thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!