Things to See and Do

Things to See and Do in the Great Swamp Watershed

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Map of GSNWRThe Wildlife Observation Center on Long Hill Road has three observation blinds and about 1.5 miles of boardwalk. It is particularly good for photography and observing wildlife.

In addition, there are about eight miles of marked trails in the wilderness area. Click on the map at the right to view the refuge brochure on the refuge’s website. Another map is available on the Friends of Great Swamp NWR website. The going is flat and easy except in spring and after rains when knee-high rubber boots are advisable. There are bugs during the summer. There is a rest room at the Wildlife Observation Center.

Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center at GSNWRThe Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center is located at 32 Pleasant Plains Rd., Harding Township, NJ. It is open on seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There you will find exhibits, a Discovery Den with activities for children, and a Nature Shop. You can find more information about the Visitor Center and the Refuge on the Friends of Great Swamp NWR website.

A number of nature checklists are available:

Morris County Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

247 Southern Boulevard, Chatham, NJ 07928, 973-635-6629

Features: a mile of trail, much of it on neat boardwalks, an observation blind, interactive exhibits, and a seasonal program schedule.

Somerset County Environmental Education Center

190 Lord Stirling Road, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920, 908-766-2489

Features: miles of trails (trail map), lots of boardwalks, wildlife observation blinds, and a beautiful visitor center with gift shop and interpretive exhibit about the formation and cultural history of Great Swamp. Programs are offered year round.

Somerset County Environmental Education Center brochure.

The Raptor Trust

Barred Owl photo by Blaine Rothauser

Barred Owl
photo by Blaine Rothauser

1390 White Bridge Road, Millington, NJ 07946, (908) 647-2353

The Raptor Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to wild bird rehabilitation. It includes a hospital with state-of-the-art medical facilities, quality exterior housing for several hundred birds, and an education building. The Raptor Trust is open to the public seven days a week. (Check their website for their visitor hours.) Visitors are afforded a unique opportunity to view at close range the many hawks, eagles, falcons and owls that are permanent residents at the facility. There is no charge to visit, but a modest donation of $2.00 per person is encouraged.

Loantaka Brook Reservation

75 Kitchell Rd, Morristown, NJ 07960

The Morris County Park Commission’s Loantaka Brook Reservation has nearly five miles of trails (maps) that provide opportunities for biking, jogging, hiking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.

Jockey Hollow

Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, NJ

The Jockey Hollow section of Morristown National Historical Park is where the Continental Army under General George Washington camped during the winter of 1779-80. In addition to a visitor center, the Wick house and garden, and some remaining soldier’s huts, the park has 27 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the Patriots’ Path, ranging from easy to strenuous (trail map).

Cross Estate GardensThe New Jersey Brigade section of the park, accessible from Old Jockey Hollow Road, is the site of the Cross Estate Gardens, open to the public from dawn to dusk every day of the year. The Patriot’s Path connects the New Jersey Brigade area with Jockey Hollow.

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary

11 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville, NJ 07924, (908) 766-5787.

New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary has the Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education boasts an environmental learning center, tree-top level observation deck, bookstore, and exhibits. The bird-feeding station next to the building is a popular attraction for birds and bird-watchers alike, and can be viewed in comfort from the inside of the building. Well-maintained and marked trails traverse the Sanctuary (map), ranging in length from 0.3 miles to 1.3 miles. The Sanctuary sponsors a variety of programs for students, adults, and teachers.

Bicycling

Bike Route SignThe New Jersey Department of Transportation has published a brochure, Great Swamp Ride, A Tour Guide for Cyclists.

In 2009, GSWA and the Somerset YMCA cosponsored a bike tour. The 30-mile tour route passes through seven of the ten towns in the watershed. There is a description here, and you can print out a pdf to take with you on your ride.