With the pandemic, we’re all trying to spend time outside and social distance. Since travel is not on the table for the moment, everyone is looking for adventures close to home. I'm lucky enough to have a wildlife refuge near where I live in New Jersey. A wildlife refuge not only gives you the chance to get some fresh air, but also see amazing scenery! Here’s one you should definitely put on your list to visit!
Where is it?
The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge is located in southern New Jersey. To give you a frame of reference, it's about 25 minutes north of Atlantic City New Jersey. The refuge is more than 47,000 acres of protected coastal habitat and extends from Atlantic County into Ocean County, the next county up from Atlantic County, The Visitor Information Center and Wildlife Drive are in Galloway Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey. I parked at the Visitor Center which is the southernmost part of the refuge. Yeah, it’s also the most crowded and the Visitor Center is also closed due to the pandemic, but it’s also a short drive from where I live. Don’t worry, even though the Visitor Center is closed, there are port-a-potties set up in case ya gotta go (bring your own toilet paper just in case)!
What's with the name?
It was named in honor of a U.S. politician who represented New Jersey in Congress in the House of Representatives from 1970 until his death in 1984.
So, what’s the difference between a national park and a national wildlife refuge?
You can camp at a national park (mostly), but not at a wildlife refuge. National parks try to preserve the lands, but offer recreational activities. National refuges are only open for observation, photography, education and hunting/fishing. Refuges are specifically for the protection and preservation of wildlife and its habitats.
Fun fact: The U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System is the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world and even includes islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific!
What's there to do?
Lots! We decided to do an hour-long drive through the marshes and forest. In addition to drives, there are walking trails through the salt marshes or forested parts of the refuge. You can also fish and bicycle. The refuge offers educational programs, free guided walks and it’s a photog’s paradise! It's open year-round and there’s different wildlife to see and different trails open depending on the time of year you visit. Check the website before you head out to see what’s taking place. Oh, and bring your binoculars to be sure to catch all the wildlife!
How about entrance fees?
Well, you have to buy a permit. There are various kinds of passes – including a day or an annual pass. You can buy them either in person or online. In person. you can buy a pass behind the Visitor Information Center on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:00AM to 2:00PM. But you can only pay with a cash or check.
We visited on a Sunday, so we bought a day permit for our vehicle online. The permit was only $4 per vehicle, but the processing fee was almost $2 – ouch! Still six bucks isn’t bad, and the permit fees go to trail maintenance and visit programs and activities.
So, if you’re looking for beautiful scenery to go with your social distancing, check out the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge!