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Since the temperatures are rising (even if ever so slightly) and spring is lingering on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get outside. SJ is home to plenty of beautiful nature reserves with incredible wildlife, so go check them out before it gets hot and the trails get crowded.

 

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

800 Great Creek Road, Galloway
609-652-1665

This wildlife refuge is nothing short of a birdwatcher’s paradise. Since it’s located right in the middle of seasonal bird migration paths, the 47,000-acre coastal habitat is a stop for tens of thousands of birds, like piping plovers, osprey and purple martins, each spring. A hike on one of the many trails also gives you a chance to spot white tail deer, wild turkeys, diamondback terrapins and otters. With thousands of acres of beautiful marshland, as well as stunning views of the Atlantic City skyline, Edward B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge offers a little something for everyone. There is no admission cost. The park is open from dawn until dusk.

Why you should visit: The most popular place to take in the view at the refuge is Wildlife Drive, an eight-mile, one-way, unpaved road that leads you through wetlands and woodlands. You can spot spectacular groups of migratory water birds in the spring, and the two observation towers and pool overlook have spotting scopes so you can get an up-close look.

 

 

Woodford Cedar Run

Wildlife Refuge
4 Sawmill Road, Medford
856-983-3329

Though Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge boasts a 171-acre wooded area around a pristine lake, what’s really special about this place is the animals. Last year, more than 4,600 wild animals were treated at the refuge’s rehabilitation hospital, and resident animals live in the outdoor wildlife housing area. Learn about wildlife in the latest exhibit, hike the one-mile trail around Cedar Lake or stop by the reptile room. The Nature Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults and kids 13 years of age and older; $3 for children ages 4 to 12; children younger than 3 and members are free.

Why you should visit: The refuge’s resident wildlife offers an experience you won’t find anywhere else in SJ. From Baron the gray fox to Squam the barred owl, the residents of the refuge are on display to help educate visitors (and look cute doing it).

 

 

The Wetlands Institute

1075 Stone Harbor Boulevard,
Stone Harbor
609-368-1211

Where else can you touch a horseshoe crab, see one of the world’s largest colonies of laughing gulls, climb an observation tower and hike a salt marsh trail all in one day. With a mission to preserve the coastal ecosystem and educate visitors, The Wetlands Institute combines family-friendly fun (like Crabulous Crab Day and Turtle Fest) with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding wetlands along an elevated marsh walkway. Admission is $8 for adults 13 years of age and older, and $6 for children 3-12; children under 3 and members are free.

Why you should visit: Everything at this hands-on attraction combines education and entertainment, all year long. Before you head inside, stroll through the award-winning gardens full of hundreds of native plants. During warmer months, you can also head out on the water for back-bay birding and wildlife tours, kayaking, and paddle boarding.

 

 

Palmyra Cove Nature Park

1335 Route 73 South, Palmyra
856-829-1900

It’s hard to believe that this 250-acre oasis was once a dump – literally. Now managed by the Burlington County Bridge Commission, the sprawling nature preserve has diverse ecosystems that are teeming with wildlife. Whether you’re fishing or taking a hike, you’re likely to spot families of raccoons, falcons, white-tailed deer and dragonflies. There is no admission cost. The park is open from dusk to dawn.

Why you should visit: Learning more about wildlife has never been easier. From moonlit nature walks to afternoons of beach clean-up, Palmyra Cove hosts a number of programs for families, kids and adults.

 

 

Black Run Nature Preserve

Kettle Run Road, Evesham Township
609-451-0580

Who knew you could find a remarkably quiet and peaceful retreat just off Route 73? Located between the Marlton Lakes and Kings Grant neighborhoods, the 1,300-acre Black Run Nature Preserve is an ecological wonder of Pine Barrens forests, wetlands, streams and old cranberry bogs. The preserved tract is also home to a variety of threatened and endangered plant and animal species. There is no admission cost. The park is open from dawn until dusk.

Why you should visit: Surrounded by homes and businesses, the preserve is a reminder of what South Jersey looked like before it was developed. Its water and soil are characteristic of the Pine Barrens, so only native plants and animals can thrive.

March 2017
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