Great Swamp NWR: Overlook

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Great Swamp NWR

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge protects 7800 acres of wetlands and forested areas that are an important migratory rest stop and habitat for over 200 species of birds and other wildlife. I revisited the refuge recently with Take A Hike NJ.

Great Swamp was once the Glacial Lake Passaic formed by the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. Today, the watershed feeds the Passaic River and serves to ease floodwaters and provides water purification for the surrounding water supply.

We met at the Helen C Fenske Visitor Center early in the morning. Fenske was a community activist who campaigned to stop the Port Authority of NY/NJ from building an airport in the wetlands in the 1960s. Fenske’s grass-roots organizations bought up parcels of lands and donated them to the federal government for inclusion in the refuge.

Park Road to Overlook

From the Visitor Center, we walked most of the two-mile auto tour rout along Pleasant Plains Road. We stopped at the North Gate which and the bridge over a tributary of the Passaic River. Next, we went to the Overlook, which is a parking area overlooking a one of the refuge’s impoundments. We saw some ducks on the river and two racoons hiding in the hollow of a tree by the Overlook. We turned around before the South Gate and went back to the visitor center to explore the easy loops nearby.

Great Swamp Posts

Location: 32 Pleasant Plains Rd, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
Designation: National Wildlife Refuge
Date designated/established: May 1966
Date of my visit: January 23, 2021

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