Programs and Events

The Friends of Great Swamp NWR host a series of interesting, fun, and educational programs every month. Check out the Calendar of Events for the current listings.

Second Sundays —
A New Topic Every Month

Second Sunday May 2013

On the second Sunday of each month, the Friends of Great Swamp NWR host fun and educational programs on a wide variety of topics, with fascinating guest speakers. Upcoming topics are listed on the Calendar of Events. Join us at 1:30 p.m. on the second Sunday of every month — you’ll always learn something new — guaranteed! Visitor Center.

Third Fridays —
Refuge Readers Book Group

Refuge Readers

The Refuge Readers environmental book group meets on the third Friday of each month at 2 p.m. at the Visitor Center. Join the group for a fun and lively discussion. Refuge Readers is open to new members. Copies of the upcoming selection are available for loan at the Visitor Center. Check out the books on our list for 2015. There is also a listing of the Books We Have Read.

Things To Do in the Refuge

Wildlife Observation Center

Volunteers at the Wildlife Observation Center

Volunteers at the WOC
photo by Kathy Woodward

Enjoy the 1.2 miles of trails at the Wildlife Observation Center, where you can get a close-up view of an exciting array of wildlife including frogs, snakes, turtles, mammals, and birds as you walk right over the swamp on boardwalk trails. There are three observation blinds where you can view wildlife. Read more about wildlife management in the refuge and download lists of observed wildlife here.

photo by Jerry Quinlan

photo by Jerry Quinlan

The Wildlife Observation Center is open from dawn to sunset daily. During spring and fall migration season, the information center is staffed by volunteers. Rest room facilities are available. No pets or picnicking are allowed.

Hike in the Wilderness Area

photo by Jim Gilbert

photo by
Jim Gilbert

There are eight miles of trails through the 3,660 acre Wilderness Area of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. These are primitive hiking trails and are frequently wet, but it’s a rare opportunity to experience a solitary walk in this metropolitan area.


photo by Robert Lin

photo by Robert Lin

Bird watching is one of the favorite activities in Great Swamp NWR. Over the years more than 244 different species have been observed. The Friends Blind at the Wild Life Observation Center is a good location to view water birds and perhaps a Pileated Woodpecker. On Pleasant Plains Road, a Bittern is sometimes seen from the Overlook, as are Red-headed Woodpeckers. Download the bird list.

Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center

Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center

The Helen C. Fenske Visitor Center is located at 32 Pleasant Plains Rd., Harding Township, NJ, at GPS coordinates 40° 43 '09.56" N, 74° 31' 32.38" W. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Exhibits at the Visitor Center, photo by Michael Stadelmeier

photo by Michael Stadelmeier

Exhibits demonstrate the variety of habitats and wildlife that can be seen at Great Swamp NWR as well as the history of this Refuge that makes it so special to this area.

“It’s a Wing Thing”

It’s a Wing Thing
exhibit in the Discovery Den

The Discovery Den has educational and entertaining activities for children. During cold winter days it is not uncommon for families to come to the visitor center to get out of their homes and enjoy the various activities.

Certainly one of the highlights has been the addition of the wonderful quilt donated to the Friends by Marcia Rymer. The quilt incorporates the birds and flowers that meant so much to Marcia, stitched onto or into the quilt. It has a permanent home in the library and never ceases to amaze visitors. It truly is a work of art.

Detail of quilt - flowers Detail of quilt - chickadee

Quilt detail

Friends’ Nature Shop

The shop, located in the Visitor Center, is open during visitor center hours and is managed and staffed entirely by volunteers. Laura Nally at Nature Shop desk All proceeds from the Nature Shop are used to fund a variety of projects and activities that benefit the refuge and refuge visitors.

At the Nature Shop, visitors will find a variety of items including books, photos, games, jewelry, clothing and, of course, Judy Schmidt’s hand-made mugs. More information...