Visitor Activities

FIRST LEGO League Robotics visit
  • Wildlife Viewing

    Preying hawk

    Great Swamp offers many great places throughout the refuge to view wildlife. The Wildlife Observation Center with 1 1/2 miles of board walk allows visitors to see a varity of habitats and many different species. Along these boardwalks, visitors may see numerous amounts of turtles, snakes, and frogs in early spring and summer. Many different birds can also be observed from any of the three permanent bird blinds along the boardwalks.

    You can drive or walk along our 2-mile auto tour route on Pleasant Plains Road, which offers open vista opportunities to observe a variety of species, including northern harrier, woodcock, red-tailed hawk and bluebirds. Also along the drive, you can stop at the “Overlook,” which looks out on one of the refuge impoundments. There you can observe waterfowl flying in the distance and if you are lucky, the occasional bald eagle. You can pull over for viewing along the drive any time, but please remain in your car until you reach designated parking areas. The auto tour offers great birding and photography opportunities. You may also see white-tailed deer, red fox, turtles, and muskrat.

    The refuge also offers 8 miles of designated hiking trails in the refuge's wilderness area to explore. Also more adventures hikers can explore 3,660 acres of trail but hip boots are recommended.

     Wildlife Tour Route Brochure October 2019

  • Interpretation

    Visitor Center

    Many interpretive programs are offered by the refuge and the Friends of the Great Swamp NWR. Check out their website for a list of current events:

    There is a 1/8-mile self guided trail called the Nature Detective Trail located at the Helen C Fenske Visitor Center. This interpretive trail is designed for children to explore the world around them, with 11 stops along the way to learn and experience some of the wonders that the refuge has to offer.

  • Photography

    Flower closeup

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. That's not surprising, considering the popularity of the digital camera and the increasing photography abilities of cell phone. You don't need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    Nearly 12 million people visit outdoor areas each year to photograph wildlife, and national wildlife refuges naturally are at the top of the list. Refuges provide enhanced opportunities to photograph wildlife in natural habitats by providing platforms, brochures, interpreters, viewing areas, and tour routes. Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System. We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive!

    You can photograph refuge landscapes and wildlife from any area open to the public. Many photographers find success along Pleasant Plains Road, the Wildlife Observation Center, and for the more adventurous, on the Wilderness Area trails. Each year the Friends of Great Swamp hold an annual photo contest. For more information please visit

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as an outdoor classroom to teach about wildlife and natural resources. Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences. Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities. Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

    Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge? Contact the refuge’s Visitor Services 973-425-1222, x 1 to check on program availability and reservation policies. Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

  • Hunting

    Great Swamp Hunter With Harvested Deer

    The Refuge actively manages its deer population through an annual permitted deer hunt held each November. A one-day youth hunt is followed by a four-day public hunt open to muzzleloader and shotgun. During this time, the Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center will remain open from 10 am to 4 pm to answer any questions. Those interested in participating should apply for a Zone 38 permit through license agents or at this site: and to obtain a Great Swamp NWR Deer Hunt Permit go to


    The deadline for state permits generally occurs around October 1; see the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Digest or call the refuge for details.

    Learn more about hunting on the refuge.