About America's First Urban Refuge

The Observation Tower over water in the Fall, with yellow trees in the background and a Great Blue Heron in the foreground

Celebrated as America's First Urban Refuge, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum was established in 1972 for the purposes of preserving, restoring, and developing the natural area known as Tinicum Marsh. In addition, the refuge was established to provide environmental education and an opportunity to study nature.

The refuge is a treasured green space nestled within the city of Philadelphia, teeming with a rich diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants native to the Delaware Estuary. The refuge supports a diversity of habitats, including freshwater tidal marsh, open waters, mudflats, and woodlands that the hundreds of species call home.

With support from our partners, the refuge leads by example in providing environmental education in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. Also, given its accessibility and visibility to over 1.7 million people living within 10 miles of the refuge and more than 35 million Americans living within a 2 hour drive, the refuge serves as a prominent ambassador of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge is committed to providing a range of accessible recreation programming and educational activities tailored to local residents, and encouraging stewardship of natural spaces.

Download the refuge brochure and map (pdf)