Roughly 25,000 years ago, where the Wisconsin Glacier reached its furthest point south and stopped, the creation of Great Swamp began. With cattail marshes, wet meadows, swamp woodlands, and ridges thick with oak, beech, and laurel, Great Swamp provides a home for 39 species of mammals including mice, moles, skunks, raccoons, otters, foxes, white-tailed deer, and the endangered Indiana bat. Migratory birds see Great Swamp as a "nest and rest" (244 species have been identified). Numerous reptiles and amphibians have taken up residence, including rare bog turtles, wood turtles, and blue-spotted salamanders.
The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1960 following grassroots action to save the area from being developed into a major metropolitan airport. In 1968, the eastern half of the Refuge was designated as the very first wilderness within the Department of the Interior. About 8.5 miles of primitive trails provide access.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness.
Take exit 40 and turn right on Hillcrest road (County Road 531). Go to stop sign (1 mile), cross Mountain Avenue, staying on Hillcrest Road (531). [Hillcrest Road becomes Mountain Avenue after passing over the Passaic River Bridge] Go straight through the traffic light at the intersection with County Road 512, and continue on Mountain Avenue. [Mountain Avenue is now also County Road 638] Go 1.3 miles to the top of the hill and cross over Long Hill Road onto Meyersville Road. Go down Meyersville Road 0.8 miles to circle, turn left onto New Vernon Road and follow Refuge directional signs.
From Interstate 78 (eastbound):
Turn left on Hillcrest Road and follow westbound directions.
From Interstate 287 (southbound and northbound):
Take Exit 30A (Basking Ridge/North Maple Avenue) and bear right onto North Maple Avenue.
FOR GREAT SWAMP NWR HEADQUARTERS
Follow North Maple Avenue about 2 miles (it becomes South Maple Avenue) and make a left onto Lord Stirling Road. Upon crossing the Passaic River, Lord Stirling Road becomes White Bridge Road. Make your next left (approximately 1 mile) onto Pleasant Plains Road. The driveway to Headquarters will be on your right.
FOR THE HELEN C. FENSKE VISITOR CENTER
Turn left onto Madisonville Road
Take second right onto the Refuge entrance road; the Visitor Center will be on your right.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(No official title, designates Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness) - Public law 90-532 (9/28/1968) To designate certain lands in the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Morris County, New Jersey, as wilderness