Situated about 300 feet north of the New York-New Jersey boundary, the parking area at Oil City Road provides a number of extraordinary wildlife viewing opportunities. Surrounded by 335 acres of impoundments, refuge staff manage the water levels in this area to attract migratory shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors during their spring and fall migrations.
A spectacular concentration of species and individual birds attract many people as well. Each year, bird watchers report new or rare species for either Orange County, New York, or Sussex County, New Jersey, at the impoundments. Among the high-profile birds seen at the impoundments are bald eagles, golden eagles, avocets and dowitchers. A bird observation platform near the parking lot provides a good set-up for spotting scopes. So grab your binoculars and your favorite bird field guide and see who's coming to dinner at the refuge!
Another landmark at this location is the Appalachian Trail. Currently, the Wallkill River NWR is the only refuge hosting this famous hiking trail, with two miles of this Maine-to-Georgia mountain way sharing its route with part of the refuge's 2.75-mile Liberty Loop Nature Trail.
A walk along this level course traces much of the refuge's impoundment system and provides a great view of 1,184-foot Pochuck Mountain along the refuge's eastern edge.
Refuge staff fill the impoundments just as migratory waterfowl begin to arrive in early spring on their way north or late fall on their way south, invertebrates, fish and seeds are available to the birds that come to rest and feed. Generally, larger birds such as ducks and geese arrive first and utilize the open water. As the season progresses, the impoundments are slowly drained and wide mudflats provide prime feeding habitats for wading birds and shore birds. In late spring, after migration, the impoundments are drained and the fertile, organic soils grow a wide variety of plants that will provide additional food for the fall migration. Meanwhile, many insects and other invertebrates grow and live in the soil. During the fall migration, the impoundments are once again flooded and the process repeats itself. Although there are many variations based on natural and management events, this is the general model that refuge staff uses to manage the impoundment system.
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The federally threatened bog turtle can be found in wetlands throughout the Wallkill River valley and the Papakating Creek Watershed. Endangered by habitat loss and poaching (the diminutive turtle is favored among illegal pet traders), this turtle is an important focus of the refuge’s conservation work. Due to their listed status, refuge public use areas are located away from sensitive bog turtle habitats.