Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located only 26 miles west of New York City’s Times Square. It is a 12-square-mile natural oasis in an area that is mostly suburban, making the refuge an outstanding area for migrating waterfowl to stop, rest and feed on their migration. Points of interest include the Helen Fenske Visitor Center (currently open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11AM-3PM and on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 10AM-4PM), Wildlife Observation Center, Overlook Parking Area, and over eight miles of trails in the Wilderness area.
Helen Fenske Visitor Center at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Saturdays in August Schedule Change

The Helen Fenske Visitor Center at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge will have a change in hours of operation on the five Saturdays in August (August 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st). During those days, the Visitor Center will be open from 11AM - 3PM. All roads and trails will remain open as usual. Our apologies for the inconvenience and we appreciate your patience and understanding. 

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. 

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is located only 26 miles west of New York City’s Times Square. It is a 12-square-mile natural oasis in an area that is mostly suburban, making the refuge an outstanding area for migrating waterfowl to stop, rest and feed on their migration. Points of interest include:

Helen Fenske Visitor Center: The visitor center features state-of-the-art exhibits showcasing refuge wildlife, habitats, history, and recreational opportunities. The visitor center also houses the Friends of Great Swamp NWR Nature Shop. The Friends is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization which provides support to the refuge through funding and volunteer resources. Outside, beautiful native plant gardens for birds and butterflies surround the visitor center. The half-mile Bockoven Trail leads to views of a vernal pool and the Passaic River. The Nature Detective Trail, a short self-guided woodland trail, challenges children to use their senses and explore nature up close. The visitor center is currently open on Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays from 10AM-4PM and is located at 32 Pleasant Plains Road, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920. 

Wildlife Observation Center: located at 220 Long Hill Road, the WOC is particularly good for photography and wildlife observation. It has approximately 1½ miles of boardwalks and trails, an informational kiosk, blinds for observing wildlife, and restrooms.

Overlook Parking Area: located on Pleasant Plains Road, this parking area has two viewing scopes and offers the opportunity to see many species of birds.

Wilderness area: The eastern half of the refuge was designated by Congress as a National Wilderness Area in 1968. This was the first Wilderness Area designated on Department of Interior lands. Generally no permanent structures, motor vehicles, or motorized equipment are allowed, not even mechanized forms of transportation such as bicycles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked hard to remove remaining traces of man such as roads, buildings and dumps. Drained wetlands were restored. The Wilderness Area provides a more primitive outdoor experience and serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory. Hiking on approximately 8 ½ miles of trails or cross-country travel is permitted. By limiting use to foot travel, the wilderness character of this sensitive area can be preserved. Waterproof footgear is recommended during most seasons. Mosquitoes, ticks, and deer flies may be a nuisance from May to September.

Location and Contact Information

      Prescribed Fire at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge
      2024 Prescribed Fire Notification for Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

      The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service wishes to inform the surrounding communities that we will be conducting prescribed burns at the Great Swamp NWR in the late winter through early fall. We expect to burn various fields along Pleasant Plains Road from Lees Hill Road to Whitebridge Road, as well as the fields along White Bridge Road between the Passaic River and New Vernon Road.

      Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960, in part to provide habitat for migrating ducks and geese, and for the protection of natural resources and conservation of the nation’s wetlands. Over the past decade, woody vegetation has invaded the grassland units and fields on the refuge, reducing the quality of these habitats for wildlife. Prescribed fire will be used to remove standing dead and invasive vegetation in these fields. The use of prescribed fire as a management tool is part of the Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

      The actual dates for the prescribed burns will depend on favorable weather conditions, including relative humidity, fuel moisture, and wind speed and direction to achieve the desired objectives and for the smoke to rise and disperse as well as the availability of firefighters. Each prescribed burn prescribed burn
      A prescribed burn is the controlled use of fire to restore wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, or achieve other habitat management goals. We have been using prescribed burn techniques to improve species habitat since the 1930s.

      Learn more about prescribed burn
      is expected to be completed within one day with active burning over several hours. Smoke may be visible from a distance and trails and facilities may be temporarily closed while burning is underway.

      Local emergency personnel, including the police and fire departments will be notified prior to the prescribed burn. At least 10 firefighters and 4 fire apparatus are required to implement the prescribed burns. Visitors and residents are reminded that smoke may be visible after the burn is completed, but personnel will monitor and patrol the area until the prescribe burns are declared out. Assistance may be provided by firefighters from other U.S. Fish and Wildlife units, the National Park Service, and/or the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. The Refuge has safely conducted prescribed burns in the last several years.

      For additional information, please view our website

      The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

      About Us

      The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of more than 567 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System that is administered by the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of lands and waters managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and its habitat. It represents the most comprehensive wildlife management program in the world.

      The Great Swamp NWR is located in Morris County, New Jersey, about 26 miles west of Manhattan's Times Square. The refuge was established by an act of Congress on November 3, 1960. Today the refuge consists of 7,853 acres of varied habitats, and the refuge has become an important resting and feeding area for more than 244 species of birds. Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants can be found on the refuge.

      In 1966, the National Park Service designated Great Swamp NWR a registered National Natural Landmark National Natural Landmark
      The National Natural Landmarks Program preserves sites illustrating the geological and ecological character of the United States. The program aims to enhance the scientific and educational value of the preserved sites, strengthen public appreciation of natural history and foster a greater concern for the conservation of the nation’s natural heritage. The program was established in 1962 by administrative action under the authority of the Historic Sites Act of 1935. The first National Natural Landmarks were designated in 1963. Today, there are more than 600 National Natural Landmarks in 48 states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

      Learn more about National Natural Landmark
      under the provisions of the Historic Sites Act of 1935. The refuge was chosen for the registry as an “exceptional example of the natural history of the United States.”

      In 1967, 746 acres in the eastern portion of the present Wilderness Area were declared a Research Natural Area by the Director of USFWS. This area contains natural shrub swamp habitat and many small upland islands.

      This eastern portion of the refuge, comprising 3,660 acres is managed to maintain a Wilderness character while providing habitat for wildlife. The Great Swamp Wilderness Act of 1968 established the first wilderness area wilderness area
      Wilderness areas are places untamed by humans. The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate wilderness areas for protection to ensure that America's pristine wild lands will not disappear. Wilderness areas can be part of national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests or public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

      Learn more about wilderness area
      designated within the Department of the Interior.

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System . It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
      A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

      Learn more about national wildlife refuge
      is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.

      Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people. 

      Our Organization

      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier government agency dedicated to the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. We are the only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is the conservation and management of these important natural resources for the American public.

      A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 570 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

      Our Species

      The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is home to an important mosaic of different habitats, from grasslands, brushlands, mature forest, forested wetlands, marsh, ponds and streams. These habitats support a variety of wildlife species, including amphibians, insects, mammals, reptiles, songbirds, and waterfowl.

      Our Library

      Youth pose with a fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff at the 2024 Cops and Bobbers Fishing Program
      U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff partnered with the Elizabeth Police Department for the second annual Cops and Bobbers fishing program with youth from underrepresented communities on July 11th, 2024 as part of the Elizabeth Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
      Krystal San Lucas (3rd from Left) and other members of Groundwork Elizabeth post for a group photo at the 2024 Great Backyard Bird Count at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
      Youth from the Elizabeth Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership joined U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and the Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to learn about bird-watching at the 2024 Great Backyard Bird Count at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge outside of New York City.
      Mentored turkey hunt group photo at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge
      Hunting in the United States has for the most part been a treasured pastime among family and friends, with one generation passing the tradition on to the next. This was true of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Officer Mike McMenamin, who accompanied his father on hunts as early as he...

      Get Involved

      Whether you want to further conservation, learn more about nature or share your love of the outdoors, you’ve come to the right place. National wildlife refuges provide many opportunities for you to help your community and fish and wildlife by doing what you love. 
      National wildlife refuges partner with volunteers, youth groups, landowners, neighbors and residents of urban and coastal communities to make a lasting difference. 
      Find out how you can help make American lands healthier and communities stronger while doing something personally satisfying. 
      Volunteers: Gain new experiences and meet new people while helping to advance wildlife conservation. Learn about volunteer opportunities at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge here
      Friends: Join neighbors in helping refuges restore habitat and expand access to green space. Learn about the Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge here

      Landowners: Learn how you can partner with the Fish and Wildlife Service to voluntarily restore land. 

      Local Groups: 
      Find out how communities can work with refuges better for wildlife and people.  
      Youth: Explore paid and unpaid opportunities to learn and develop leadership skills.

      Projects and Research

      The majority of habitat management conducted at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge consists of controlling natural succession, which threatens sensitive wetland habitats and open fields with encroachment by woody vegetation such as shrubs and trees. Cutting back vegetation in these areas helps to maintain the diverse mosaic of wetland and upland habitats that wildlife depend on. Techniques include mowing, manual cutting, application of specific herbicides where necessary to limit re-growth of woody vegetation, and the use of prescribed fire.