In 1984, to posthumously honor a New Jersey conservationist congressman, Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge (established in 1939) and Barnegat National Wildlife Refuge (established in 1967) were combined to create the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Although the refuge consists of more than 39,000 acres, less than 7,000 acres in the southern division (the Brigantine) qualify as Wilderness. This trailless area, a tidal wetland and shallow bay habitat, is one of the most active flyways for migratory waterbirds in North America. Birdwatchers, binoculars in hand, have zoomed in on close to 300 species, including Atlantic brant and American black duck.
The Wilderness protects Holgate and Little Beaches, two of the few remaining barrier beaches in New Jersey. Grasses on these shores stabilize the fragile dunes and safeguard the rare piping plover, black skimmer, and least tern.
The Wilderness also preserves the original site of one of the many life-saving stations found along the Atlantic coast before the creation of the Coast Guard.
The refuge is open during daylight hours, but there are prohibitions on camping, fires, horses, kite flying, swimming, flower picking, or anything else that might endanger the wildlife and their habitat. During nesting season (mid-April to mid-July), the area is closed to all public use. In the same protective vein, access to some portions is restricted to people with special-use permits for research and education.
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 Brigantine Wilderness.
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.