Broad Channel, Queens.
Trails open daily, dawn to dusk.
The Visitor Contact Station is wheelchair accessible and handicapped parking is available.
Gateway NRA (NPS), 718-318-4340.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
A sanctuary for wild birds and other native species
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge—part of Gateway National Recreation Area—is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States and one of the best places in New York City to observe migrating species. With more than 330 bird species—nearly half the species in the Northeast—sighted at the refuge over the last 25 years, it is a must-see for avian enthusiasts.
Watch this video for a short introduction to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge by a national park ranger. Enjoy a ranger-guided walk in quest of birds and other wildlife on your visit.
The park's unique landscape contains a variety of rare native habitats including a salt marsh, upland field and woods, several fresh and brackish water ponds, and an open expanse of bay. There is a wide variety of ranger and partner-led programs offered year-round at the site, including presentations on seasonal wildlife, sunset tours, hikes, boat trips, family programs and an annual lecture series. Check out what's happening at Jamaica Bay.
The Visitor Contact Station, a Gold LEED certified building, welcomes visitors and is the starting point for many guided programs. Free walking permits, necessary to hike the trails, are obtainable here as well. The Visitor Contact Station is also home to exhibits that highlight Jamaica Bay's remarkable plant and animal life, history, and the continuing human impact on the nature of the bay.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the only wildlife refuge in the National Park System, is also home to an impressive array of native reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, over 60 species of butterflies and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs in the Northeast. Numerous ranger-led nature hikes, bird watching sessions, and seining activities give visitors the chance to get up close to these incredible animals and learn about protecting them.
Originally managed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the landscape of the Wildlife Refuge underwent a major change when then Park Commissioner Robert Moses ordered the creation of two large fresh water ponds, East Pond and West Pond, which are still major features of the park today. In 1972, the city transferred ownership of the Wildlife Refuge to the National Park Service, and the site became part of Gateway National Recreation Area.
Things to Do
Special Events in May
Hurricane Sandy: Before and After
Daily, 9am-5pm, Visitor Center
See this exhibit of photos showing the effects of Hurricane Sandy on Gateway parks with some large scale comparisons of satellite images from before and after the hurricane.
Be a Bird Detective
Weekends & holidays, 10-10:30am, Visitor Center
Learn about birds with Jamaica Bay Rangers. Great for newcomers and families, this program teaches you to use binoculars and a bird detective checklist so you can learn for yourself why Jamaica Bay is a special place for many different bird species. Binoculars and field guides to share will be provided, but more are always welcome. Dress for the weather but the program may be adapted for indoors.
Weekends & holidays through 5/31, 2-4pm, Visitor Center
Observe Coly the Osprey and his mate as they prepare to raise a family. Hear the stories of their long-distance migration this past winter and see them up close in their nest through a spotting scope. Learn more about Coley's travels on Osprey's Journey.
Birds in the Web of Life
5/11, 9:30-11am, Visitor Center
Which wild birds help prevent people from getting sick? Which birds act like farmers? Hear how common birds of the refuge benefit humans and the rest of the ecosystem on this family friendly, 1 mile bird walk. Binoculars available to borrow, please bring your own if you have them.
Sunset Ecology Cruise
5/25, 5-8pm, Departs from Sheepshead Bay, Pier 4 (Emmons Ave & Bedford Ave.)
All aboard the "Golden Sunshine" for an annual cruise along the backwaters of Jamaica Bay. See nesting egrets, herons, ibis, peregrine falcon and osprey. Cost: $55 includes 3-hour narrated tour plus wine & cheese, fruit and snacks. Leaders: Mickey Cohen, Don Riepe. To reserve call 917-371-8577 or email Don Riepe.
Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs
5/26, 9am-12pm, Visitor Center
Come see the annual mating ritual of the horseshoe crabs as they come ashore to lay eggs. Watch the red knots, sanderlings, ruddy turnstones and other shorebirds who come to feed on them. Learn about the history, ecology and medical value of the ancient 'crab'. Kids welcome! Carpool from the Visitor Center to the ball field beach at the south end of Broad Channel. Leaders: Mickey Cohen, Don Riepe.
See special programs page for kayaking and sailing programs.
Birding, nature walks, exhibits, talks and cruises.