Mention “New Jersey” to most people and images of the turnpike, traffic, pollution, and the cast of Jersey Shore come to mind. Though I am not a New Jersey native, I have grown to love my adopted state and have been surprised time and time again by its little-known and oft uncelebrated beauty.
The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is such a place of beauty. Located in southern Morris County, in the middle of suburban New Jersey, the Great Swamp, according to their website, “is here to conserve its natural resources for the American public while protecting threatened and endangered species for future generations. Today the refuge consists of 7,768 acres of varied habitats, and the refuge has become an important resting and feeding area for more than 244 species of birds. Fox, deer, muskrat, turtles, fish, frogs and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants can be found on the refuge.”
On a sunny yet breezy early spring afternoon, with camera in hand, I felt the impulse to go on an adventure and rediscover this gem of New Jersey. Having said my happy goodbye to New Jersey’s very long, snowy, and cold winter, I was thrilled to make a quick stop at the Great Swamp. That quick stop turned into an hour and a half long visit.
As I walked the paths and stopped to take pictures, I realized that I had never visited during this time of year. Though I have visited “the Swamp” many times before, it was like I was visiting it for the first time. I perceived a different kind of beauty in her marshes, meadows, grasses, and trees. Color, texture, and light all affected my perception. Listening to the sounds of birds, water fowl, frogs, and the light breeze through the trees, I was caught up in this world of enchantment.
With the sun descending low into the west, I reluctantly made my way back to the car. One day, when I don’t have to get back home to make dinner, I will stay for a lovely sunset and see how the Great Swamp will be attired. I am sure she will be arrayed in splendor, this beautiful gem of New Jersey.
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