The Great Swamp Refuge - Bike Ride, Lunch & Fall Foliage
If you're looking for a great outdoor excursion (that may or may not include cycling), consider checking out The Great Swamp Natural Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Morris County, NJ. Back in July, we imposed on our neighbor, Dave, for a good bike route in the area around The Great Swamp. We know he cycles a lot and knows that area well. So, we did what neighbors do....asked for a favor...and he did not disappoint. He put together a great 20-mile cycling trip for us, outlined in the map below. The route brought us through several historic towns and rural drives around the swamp.
Although there were several points throughout the trip we could have ducked deeper into the refuge area, it was peak mosquito season and we thought Swamp+Mosquitoes=Misery. So, we decided to just do the biking trip and lunch (see below) and didn't stop off in The Great Swamp itself until recently as the fall foliage started to peak. The colors are really bursting this time of year.
Today is the 55th anniversary of the establishment of The Great Swamp NWR. Established by an act of Congress on November 3, 1960, today the refuge consists of 7,768 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.
During our recent visit, we stopped into an area of The Great Swamp that has several observation "blinds." Raised wooden pathways lead you through the swamp and out to observation blinds where you can observe the natural beauty of the area and spot some of the birds, water fowl, mammals and more that inhabit the swamp. The blinds keep you hidden from the outside where you can look through or aim your camera through the cut-outs. To plan your trip, view the map of the refuge.
It's particularly beautiful this time of year. The colors are breathtaking...don't miss out! This colorful display doesn't last forever! The nice thing about coming here is that you feel completely immersed in it - not just viewing it from afar.
The Raptor Trust
The Raptor Trust, which borders The Great Swamp, is also worth a visit while you're in this neck of the woods. The Raptor Trust is "one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States." It's open to visitors 7 days a week where you can see hawks, eagles, falcons and owls close-up. In addition to the rehabilitation efforts, they have a few educational "residents" whose injuries prevent them from being released. The Raptor Trust is a comprehensive organization dedicated to the fulfillment of three primary missions:
- To provide free care and assistance to injured, sick, or orphaned wild birds.
- To educate people about wild birds, especially birds of prey.
- To provide a humane example for others.
It's an organization that's not only interesting to visit, but one that does a lot of great work. They'll even take in injured birds people find in their yards. Visits are free, but a donation of is $2.00 is suggested.
Lunch in Chatham, NJ
During our first trip to the Great Swamp, we stopped off at Marie's Italian Specialities for lunch. We had been there once before and knew that we had to return while we were in the area. Marie's is the real-deal. It's buried in a typical Jersey "strip mall" setting, but don't let that turn you off. The staff is friendly and the food is great. It's a comfortable setting with authentic Italian dishes. It was even featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives." (Not my favorite show, but still kind of cool.)
I encourage you to take a trip out there while the colorful autumn leaves are peaking. This beauty doesn't last forever.