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John Heinz
National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

8601 Lindbergh Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA   19153
E-mail: William_Buchanan@fws.gov
Phone Number: 215-365-3118
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
The John Heinz NWR at Tinicum is located in Philadelphia and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania about 1 mile from Philadelphia International Airport. The refuge was established by an act of Congress in 1972 to protect the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania; approximately 200 acres. When acquisition is complete, it will consist of 1200 acres of varied habitats.

Over the years, the refuge has become a resting and feeding area for more than 300 species of birds, 85 of which nest here. Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants are among the species that call the refuge "home".

The Congressional mandate set forth for the refuge was to protect, preserve and enhance habitat; provide compatible outdoor recreation opportunities for the public; and to promote environmental education.

Getting There . . .
From North: From I-95 South, take exit 14, Bartram Avenue; At the 5th traffic light turn right onto 84th Street; At 2nd light turn left onto Lindbergh Blvd. Follow one block to refuge entrance on right.

From South: From I-95 North, take exit 10 (Airport); turn left at 1st light (Bartram Ave); turn left at 5th light (84th St.); turn left at 2nd light (Lindbergh Blvd.) 1 block to refuge entrance on right.

From West: From I-76 take I-476 South to I-95 North and follow as listed above (from South, to I-95 North exit 10)

From East (New Jersey): Use either North or South directions.

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These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

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Wildlife and Habitat

The Refuge is home to a great variety of wildlife.  Birdwatchers have recorded over 300 species of birds in and around the Refuge.  Migratory birds such as Canada geese, great blue herons, egrets, killdeer, sandpipers and a large variety of ducks, within the Atlantic Flyway, use the refuge as a resting/feeding spot during spring and fall flights.  In addition, opossums, fox, raccoons, muskrats and other small animals take refuge here.  There are several species of reptiles and amphibians that call the refuge home including the Northern Water, Eastern Garter and Northern Brown Snakes; Pickerel, Wood and Southern Leopard Frogs (the latter listed as endangered in Pennsylvania) and the state threatened Red-bellied Turtle as well as the Painted, Snapping and Eastern Box Turtle.

The refuge has five varied habitats: freshwater tidal marsh, impounded water, woods, meadow and field. The diversity of such habitats in such a concentrated area make it a natural magnet for all forms of wildlife. In addition to the above mentioned there are a wide variety of fish species that can be found in both, Darby Creek, the lifeblood of Tinicum Marsh, as well as the 145 acre impoundment and the smaller, Hoy's Pond. They include brown bullhead, channel catfish, crappie, carp and small striped bass that utilize the wider expanses of Darby Creek, just before its confluence with the Delaware River, in the earlier stages of their development. The fields and meadows provide open areas where wide arrays of insects including several species of butterflies can be found foraging the dozens of species of wildflowers.

Visitors to the refuge can actually pass through, or by, most of the habitats on the over 10 miles of trails, including the popular "Impoundment Trail." Students and their teachers can explore the varied habitats and do pond studies from extensions on either of the two boardwalks that cross the impoundment and one of its smaller coves.

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The history of Tinicum Marsh, the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetland Pennsylvania goes back to the first settlements in the region in 1634.  Swedes, Dutch and English diked and drained parts of the marsh for grazing.  At that time, the tidal marshes measured over 5,700 acres. The rapid urbanization since World War I, reduced tidal marshes to approximately 200 acres. The remnant of this once vast tidal marsh is protected by the refuge.

A diked, non-tidal area of 145 acres, adjacent to the eastern end of Tinicum marsh, was donated by the Gulf Oil Corporation to the City of Philadelphia in 1955. This area, administered for the benefit of wildlife and people, was known as Tinicum Wildlife Preserve.  The areas of open water along with the adjacent heavily vegetated tidal wetlands, formed an ideal habitat for thousands of migratory waterfowl.

In 1969, the remaining area was threatened by plans to route Interstate 95 through it and by a sanitary landfill on the tidal wetlands.  These activities started a long series of injunctions, public hearings and extraordinary efforts by private and public groups to secure rerouting of the highway and termination of the landfill operation. Under legislation passed by Congress in 1972, authorization was given to the Secretary of the Interior to acquire 1200 acres to establish the Tinicum National Environmental Center.

In November 1991, in a bill sponsored by Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA), the name of the refuge was changed to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum to honor the late Senator who helped preserve Tinicum Marsh.  

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John Heinz NWR at Tinicum now featured on video DVD


Photograph of grizzly bear on DVD cover. Experience eight National Wildlife Refuges from Alaska to the Caribbean on this new two hour DVD.

See wildlife up close and personal – from grizzly bear and whooping cranes to red wolves and bald eagles. For more information, click on the photograph of the DVD cover.

Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
The refuge is managed to protect and enhance the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania and other key habitats found here. This would include providing and protecting habitat for endangered and threatened species such as the Coastal Leopard Frog and Red Bellied Turtle.

In addition refuge staff, volunteers and partners are working to control the spread of invasive plant species such as purple loosestrife and phragmites. Other projects are addressing issues such as erosion control of both tidal creek impoundment areas, developing more universally accessable trails and creating more nesting sites for both waterfowl and neotropical migratory songbirds.