Welcome to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail!
The estimated 3.5 mile Wood Duck Nature Trail is part of the 5,000 + acre Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, located about 60 miles northwest of New York City, was established in 1990 along a nine mile stretch of the river in the northeastern section of Sussex County, New Jersey (in Wantage, Hardyston, and Vernon) and in southern Orange County New York (in Minisink and Warwick).
The trail, which opened in October of 1997, follows the path of the former New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad. This particular section of the railroad was created in 1872 and abandoned in 1958. Most of the railroad infrastructure was removed when the line was abandoned but reminders such as moss covered railroad ties can still be found.
The trail was constructed by hard working dedicated volunteers and named after the Wood Duck, which may be found in the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge.
The trail is flat and makes for very easy walking.
Interpretive signage has been strategically placed throughout the trail informing visitors of the surrounding habitat and its residents.
In addition to the interpretive nature signs, there are plenty of benches and even a wildlife viewing blind.
The trail features footbridges over Wallkill River tributaries such as Beaver Run.
Habitats found along the way include red maple dominated swamps located near the beginning of the trail.
Red Maple is one of the most abundant native trees found in eastern North America. It is common in swampy slow draining flats and along small sluggish streams. These habitats can be found throughout the Wood Duck Nature Trail.
This out and back trail runs for about 1.75 miles before it ends at the Wallkill River. Out and back trails always provide the opportunity to see additional wildlife or scenery you might have missed heading in. Future plans for the Wood Duck Nature Trail include a foot bridge over the Wallkill River and extending the trail by another .75 of a mile.
The Wallkill River, a tributary of the Hudson River, begins by draining Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey and flows about 88 miles northeast through a wide glacial valley between the Kittatinny Mountains to the west and the Hudson Highlands to the east. The river is unusual for flowing north in between the south flowing Hudson and Delaware rivers.
The Wallkill River and Beaver Run are labeled FW2-NT. (Fresh Water, Non-Trout). Water with this classification are generally not suitable for trout because of physical, chemical or biological characteristics but may be suitable for a wide variety of other fish.
The Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge contains one of the last large areas of high quality waterfowl habitat left in northwestern New Jersey. The refuge contains emergent marshes, vernal pools, wet meadows and forested wetlands surrounded by oak covered limestone ridges paralleling the Wallkill River.
The Bog Turtle Recovery Plan (USFWS 2001) has identified the Wallkill River watershed as a recovery subunit making the refuge one of only two national wildlife refuges that supports the endangered Bog Turtle.
Measuring in at only 3-3.9 inches, the Bog Turtle is one of the smallest and secretive of North America’s turtle population. Habitat suiting the bog turtle includes calcareous (limestone) fens and wet, grassy pastures which are all found within the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge.
Just like the interpretive signs of wildlife picture listed below (and found on the Wood Duck Nature Trail), you don’t have to necessarily see physical animals to know they are present.
Animals and birds leave tracks and other signs that they have been in the area.
Given that there are an estimated 40 species of animals living in the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge, you are bound to come across some clue to key in on what species has been poking around. Animals documented include the following among others:
More than 225 species of birds have been documented in the refuge. Birds documented include these among many others:
Flora found in and around the Wood Duck Nature Trail includes:
- Red Maple
- Sugar Maple
- White Ash
- Green Ash
- Shagbark Hickory
- Black Cherry
- Narrow Leaf Cattail
- Tussock Sedge
- Virginia Creeper
- Spice Bush
Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.
NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!
Click here for more information!
The Wood Duck Nature Trail trailhead is located on Route 565 in Wantage, New Jersey, approximately 200 yards north of Route 23 near the Sussex Queen Diner on Route 23 North. There is a small parking lot available right outside the Wood Duck Nature Trail trailhead.
The refuge contains three other hiking trails in addition to the Wood Duck Nature Trail providing visitors to experience the refuge in and out. If you are in the area, be sure to check it out!
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!