The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (GSOEC), situated on 44 acres on the eastern end of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, serves as an important crossroad between nature and civilization. You can walk along 2 miles of flat trails and boardwalk, from sunrise to sunset throughout the year, and enjoy the spectacular views of the swamp, marsh, meadow, pond, forest habitats, and wildlife. It is the unique intermingling of these habitats and diversity of terrain that gives the Great Swamp its unique character. Marvel at the many plants along the way, from the ferns, maples, and sedges of the swamps to the oaks, beech trees, and witch hazel shrubs of the forest. There is a myriad of wildflowers and wildlife. Perhaps you will have a rare opportunity to spot one of the many threatened and endangered species that call the Great Swamp their home.
Venture into the Visitors Center to view the many interactive and educational exhibits designed to entertain and inform about the natural history of the area. A large mural with two dozen realistic, taxidermied animals helps you to develop a better understanding and appreciation of the types of creatures that call the Great Swamp home. Observe live reptiles and insects, test your nature knowledge with the many interactive displays, or attempt to fit inside a replica bear den. Touch and examine a wide variety of natural artifacts up close, or perform a nature puppet show at the puppet theater. Enjoy using track stampers to make trails in the sandbox. Discover the latest wildlife spotted on the trails by checking the sightings board before you head out on the trails with a self-guided trail booklet, or a free seasonal scavenger hunt. Stop by the model wigwam behind the center to see what life was like for the Lenape Indians.
FALL: The meandering trails of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center are a perfect place to enjoy the colorful show as the leaves change color. The view from the pond balcony reveals the vibrant reds, yellow, and oranges of a variety of species. This is also a wonderful place to spot flocks of songbirds migrating south for the winter, as well as beautiful dragonflies and butterflies still active until the first frost.
Highlights of fall programs include several popular annual events: Lenape Day celebrates the history and culture of New Jersey’s native peoples with dancers in regalia, hands-on activities, and tours of the model wigwam, while Trail Tales features guided nighttime walks along the trails listening to costumed storytellers and enjoying hand-carved pumpkin scenes. At Apple Cidering Demos, you will learn the amazing history of apples and learn how to make apple cider. Join the 16th annual evening celebration of the Winter Solstice. Gather around a campfire and listen to Native American stories that explain the history, science, and traditions surrounding the solstice.
WINTER: The winter landscape also reveals some of nature’s secrets as myriad wildlife tracks suddenly become visible in the snow. Bring your family to stroll the wooded trails and boardwalks, and use your detective skills to discover what the animals have been doing during the cold months. Inside the nature center, watch the antics of dozens of birds visiting the array of birdfeeders.
Highlights of winter programs include weekend maple sugaring demonstrations and the culminating event of the season, the Maple Sugaring Festival. Learn about the process of changing sap into pancake topping treat, visit the wood-fired evaporator, and check the buckets hanging on the maple trees for sap.
The Special Events page highlights programs and activities, offering unique and fun opportunities for visitors of all ages.
The Great Swamp was created approximately 15,000 years ago by the melting waters of the Wisconsin Glacier, which poured into the natural basin of this area and created prehistoric Lake Passaic. When the lake eventually drained northward, it formed the Passaic River, leaving behind the rich soil from which the Great Swamp flora would grow.
This incredible natural oasis was almost lost in the late 1950s when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey promoted a plan to change the land into an international jetport. Fortunately, through the tireless efforts of grassroots activists, and state and local government officials, the Great Swamp basin was preserved in perpetuity as a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Including all the public lands, this area now covers approximately 8,000 acres and extends seven miles across and three miles wide.
The Morris County Park Commission maintains approximately 44 acres on the eastern edge of the Great Swamp NWR at the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center. The GSOEC was opened in 1963, one year before the federal refuge was established, as the Morris County Park Commission’s contribution to the preservation efforts.
The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center trails are open daily Sunrise to Sunset throughout the year.
The Visitors Center is open weekdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. throughout the year and closed most weekends during the summer starting June 23.
For more information, 973.635.6629.
things to Do:
* Requires permit/advanced scheduling |(HC) Handicap Accessible
Click below for driving directions
GPS Address: 247 Southern Boulevard, Chatham Township, NJ 07928
Visitor Center: 247 Southern Boulevard, Chatham NJ 07928
247 Southern Boulevard, Chatham NJ 07928