Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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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.

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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.

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A good place to begin your visit to the refuge is the Helen C Fenske Visitor Center. 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. There are some displays in the center documenting how grass-roots organizations bought up parcels of lands and donated them to the federal government for inclusion in a refuge.

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The Visitor Center has a garden viewing area where you can watch birds come to the regularly stocked feeders. The refuge was participating in the Great Backyard Birdcount the day I visited and had a ranger presentation on the types of birds to be found locally.

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From the Visitor Center, I drove the park road to the Overlook, which is a parking area overlooking a swampy area where I’d imagine there are lots of birds during the right season. I could hear some in the distance, but there were none to be seen.

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I continued around the park’s dirt road until I came to the Wildlife Observation Center.

This side of the refuge has a mile or two of boardwalk trails through the marsh to three different observation blinds.

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These are sheds with slots cut out for viewing scopes. In one of the blinds, a birder with a powerful spotting scope found a yellow eyed duck, but it was too far for me to capture a good image with my camera.

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Location: 32 Pleasant Plains Rd, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: May 1966

Date of my visit: 2/16/2019

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Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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I visited the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey with a photography group a few years ago. The group leader had reserved a tour for us on an electric tram with a naturalist. Check the Refuge Events page of the Forsythe website for information on reserving a tour.

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The National Refuge was created in 1984 out of the existing Barnegat and Brigantine refuges in order to protect tidal wetlands for migrating water birds. The refuge is located along most active flight paths of the Atlantic Flyway and is named for Edwin B. Forsythe, a conservationist and a former NJ Congressman.

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The tram took us around the 8-mile wildlife drive while the driver told us about the history of the area and the types of birds that can be found in the refuge. We stopped at several points and got out to take some photos.

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On one side of the loop, there is the incongruous juxtaposition of the refuge with the Atlantic City skyline.

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We wanted to take a more leisurely loop around as we hadn’t been able to stop everywhere we wanted on the tram. So once back at the visitors center, we piled in one of the cars.

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The snow geese were in the wetlands at the time of our visit…hundreds of white birds covering the wetlands as far as we could see. Snow Geese gather by the thousands at the refuge each winter.

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While there, we also saw a few different ducks, egrets/herons and a juvenile bald eagle. Osprey also come here to nest, but we were there too early in the season for them.

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Location: 800 Great Creek Road, Galloway, New Jersey 08205

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designation declared: 12/18/1986

Date of my visit: February 2016

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A juvenile bald eagle perches on an osprey habitat with Atlantic City in the background.

 

 

The National Bison Range

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We drove south from Columbia Falls on Day 5 of our Montana trip to see a few places off the beaten path. We traveled down the length of Flathead Lake and kept going until we arrived at the National Bison Range. Established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt, the National Bison Range is one of our country’s oldest National Wildlife Refuges.

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The refuge’s mission is to provide sanctuary for the American Bison. Driven to the brink of extinction by the late 1800s, the bison have made a successful comeback due to the Bison Range and other public lands. There are about 400 bison roaming the refuge today.

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The visitor center is open Thursday through Monday and we were there on a Tuesday. In the parking lot, there was a large educational exhibit about the types of animals found in the refuge, a lock box to place our $5 fee in and printed materials with which to take a self guided tour of Red Sleep Mountain Drive.

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There was also a huge pile of antlers collected from the refuge’s animals as they shed them each year.

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Red Sleep Mountain Drive is a one-way mountain road that climbs through grasslands into an alpine woodland and then has steep downgrades as it loops around to meet Prairie Drive. The loop is about 19 miles long with 10 points of interest featured on the self-guided tour.

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We stopped frequently to take photos of the bison visible from the wildlife drive. They are used to cars and so were often pretty close. It is not advisable to get out of the vehicle while on the wildlife drive.

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At sign number six on the drive, there is a small lot with a few displays about Glacial Lake Missoula which formed the valley below. There is also a restroom at this stop and a trailhead for the 1/2 mile High Point Trail.

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The High Point Trail leads to a point 4700 feet above sea level and has some views we wouldn’t have seen from the road. It wasn’t too steep and wildflowers were blooming in the fields around us as we enjoyed the lovely walk to the top.

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In addition to the herds of bison, the refuge is home to many other animals. We saw an elk, a pronghorn antelope and a few deer on our drive around the loop.

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The last spot on the loop tour is the bison corral. The bison are rounded up once a year for identification and health checks.

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Location: 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT 59824

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designation declared: 5/23/1908

Date of my visit: 6/26/2018

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