Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center, 247 Southern Boulevard, Chatham, Morris County, NJ


Exit 26A of I-287 near Basking Ridge, take Maple Avenue south through the town of Basking Ridge to Lord Stirling Road, a distance of about 2.5 miles. Make a left onto Lord Stirling Road, which becomes White Bridge Road after passing the junction with Carlton Road. Pleasant Plains and New Vernon/Long Hill roads are also passed before you dead-end at a large parking area, just under 3 miles from Maple Avenue.

Along White Bridge Road, the refuge office is located a short distance left (north) up Pleasant Plains Road. It is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Maps and fliers are available there. A wildlife observation center is located about a mile left (north) up Long Hill Road.

US 287 exit 30; St. James; turn left Sand Spring Lane; turn left Millbrook Road; turn right Pleasantville Road; turn left Long Hill Road.

The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center is located in Chatham at 247 Southern Boulevard. It has observation blinds, trails and restrooms. There is a system of 8.5 miles of marked trails.


At one time this area was covered by the 200 foot deep Lake Passaic. It was fed by meltwater from the receding Wisconsin Ice Sheet about 16,000 years ago. The melting glacier withdrew northward leaving a barren landscape of sand and gravel strewn in long ridges that blocked the outlet of an ancient river basin. Water, melted from the glacier, flowed into the basin behind this natural dam to form a giant lake, 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. (Great Outdoor Recreation Pages; There is an underlying layer of dense clay, creating the swampy area.

Eventually the retreating glacier uncovered a second outlet at what is now Little Falls Gap. The lake waters drained out along the Passaic River. The lake eventually disappeared and was replaced by extensive marshes and swamps. Today theses areas are known as Black Meadows, Great and Little Piece Meadows, Troy Meadows, Hatfield Swamp, and Great Swamp.


12 - 15 thousand years ago --  the Great Wisconsin Glacier retreats; the meltwater flowed into the Upper Passaic Valley basin.  The water was trapped by the Watchung Mountains thereby forming Glacial Lake Passaic.  Glacial till blocked the original outlet from the valley at the Short Hills Gap near Summit.  The only outlet was to the west at Moggy Hollow in Far Hills.  Later an outlet near Little Falls and Paterson opened up, thereby creating the course of the Passaic River.  After considerable draining there was still a lot of ground water that remained, confined by almost impermeable clay and silt beds as much as 69 feet in thickness. (Cavanaugh 1978:37-39)

10 - 7 thousand years B.C.  --  Paleo-Indians camped in the Great Swamp.

1708  -- in the New Britain Purchase, the Delaware Indians deeded a 30,000 acre tract, including the Great Swamp, to English investors.

The towns of Sumit, Chatham, Madison and Morristown were founded on a long ridge created by the glacier's terminal moraine. 

During the Revolutionary War --  local settlers fashioned wagon wheel parts with wood cut from the Great Swamp.

By 1844  --  farms appeared on cleared uplands; farmers drained marshlands; and "foul meadow hay" became a major crop. But the small farming operations were uneconomical and gradually disappeared. Consequently, much of the cleared upland returned to woods and the lower flat areas reverted to swampland.

Various modern uses have been planned for Great Swamp: flood control in the 1920's; and drainage projects in the 1930's.

1959 --  an airport was planned here. The Great Swamp Committee saved the day by raising the necessary funds to buy the land and give it to the U.S. Department of Interior.

1964  -- the effort raised more than a million dollars to purchase nearly 3,000 acres which came to form the nucleus of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge; the initial 3,000 acre tract was dedicated. (Scheller 1998:100)

The western half of the refuge is a Wildlife Management Area that is intensively managed to maintain optimum habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.


Karl Anderson, park staff, etc.

Acer rubrum (red maple)
Amelanchier arborea (common shadbush)
Amelanchier canadensis (swamp shadbush)
Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (America beech)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus bicolor (swamp white oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Salix nigra (black willow)

Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush)
Chimaphila maculata (wintergreen)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
Cornus amomum swamp dogwood
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Gaylussacia frondosa (dangleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Ilex verticillata (winterberry)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Lonicera tartarica (Tartarian honeysuckle)
Lyonia ligustrina (maleberry)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rhododendron calendulaceum (flame azalea)
Rhododendron periclymenoides (pinxter flower)
Rhododendron viscosum (swamp honeysuckle)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rosa palustris (swamp rose)
Rubus alleghaniensis (common blackberry)
Rubus hispidus (swamp dewberry)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (meadowsweet)
Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum dentatum v. lucidum (arrowwood viburnum)
Viburnum nudum (naked witherod)
Vinca minor (periwinkle)

Apios americana (groundnut)
Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed)
Convolvulus sepium (bindweed)
Dioscorea villosa (wild yam root)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Mikania scandens (hempweed)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis labrusca (fox grape)

Acalypha rhomboidea (three seeded mercury)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Agrimonia parviflora (agrimony)
Alisma subcordatum (water plantain)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Anagallis arvensis (scarlet pimpernel)
Anemone quinquefolia (wood anemone)
Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone)
Antennaria neodioica (pussytoes)
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arctium minus (great burdock)
Arisaema triphyllum (jack-in-the-pulpit)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asarum canadense (wild ginger)
Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)
Asclepias purpurascens (purple milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)
Aster laevis (smooth aster)
Aster lateriflorus (calico aster)
Aster novae-angliae (New England aster)
Aster pilosus (heath aster)
Aster puniceus (purple-stemmed aster)
Aster tradescanti (Tradescant's aster)
Aster vimineus (small-flowered aster)
Baptisia tinctoria (wild indigo)
Barbarea vulgaris (winter cress)
Bartonia virginica (yellow bartonia)
Bidens aristosa (Midwestern tickseed-sunflower)
Bidens spp. (beggar ticks)
Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle)
Calla palustris (water arum)
Caltha palustris (marsh marigold)
Cardamine pratensis (cuckoo flower)
Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed)
Chelidonium majus (celandine)
Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy)
Cichorium intybus (chicory)
Cicuta bulbifera (bulb-bearing water hemlock)
Cicuta maculata (water hemlock)
Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle)
Cirsium discolor (field thistle)
Cirsium pumilum (pasture thistle)
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle)
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty)
Commelina virginica (dayflower)
Cypripedium acaule (pink lady's slippers)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Desmodium canadense (tick trefoil)
Desmodium glabellum (tick trefoil)
Desmodium paniculatum (panicled tick trefoil)
Dianthus armeria (Deptford pink)
Dipsacus sylvestris (teasel)
Echium vulgare (viper's bugloss)
Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane)
Erythronium americanum (trout lily)
Eupatorium dubium (eastern Joe-Pye-weed)
Eupatorium maculatum (spotted Joe-Pye-weed)
Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset)
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot)
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod)
Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry)
Galium palustre (marsh bedstraw)
Gentiana andrewsii (closed gentian)
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)
Geum canadense (white avens)
Glechoma hederacea (ground ivy)
Goodyera pubescens (rattlesnake plantain)
Helenium autumnale (sneezeweed)
Helianthus giganteus (giant sunflower)
Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke)
Hemerocallis fulva (tawny day lily)
Hepatica americana (round-lobed hepatica)
Hibiscus palustris (swamp rose mallow)
Hieracium aurantiacum (hawkweed)
Hieracium pratense (king devil hawkweed)
Hypericum mutilum (dwarf St. Johnswort)
Hypericum perforatum (common St. Johnswort)
Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow stargrass)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed)
Iris prismatica (slender iris)
Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag)
Iris versicolor (blue flag)
Krigia biflora (two-flowered Cynthia)
Lamium purpureum (purple dead nettle)
Lemna sp. (duckweed)
Liatris spicata (blazing star)
Lilium canadense (Canada lily)
Lilium superbum (Turk's cap lily)
Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs)
Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower)
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
Lobelia spicata (spiked lobelia)
Lotus corniculatus (birds foot trefoil)
Ludwigia alternifolia (seedbox)
Ludwigia palustris (marsh purslane)
Lycopus americanus (American water horehound)
Lycopus virginicus (Virginia bugleweed)
Lysimachia ciliata (fringed loosestrife)
Lysimachia nummularia (moneywort)
Lysimachia quadrifolia (whorled loosestrife)
Lysimachia terrestris (swamp candles)
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Malva moschata (musk mallow)
Mazus pumilus (mazus)
Medeola virginiana (cucumber root)
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover)
Melilotus officinalis (yellow sweet clover)
Mentha arvensis (wild mint)
Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebell)
Mimulus ringens (monkey flower)
Monarda fistulosa (bergamot)
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Myosotis scorpioides (forget-me-not)
Nuphar advena (spatterdock)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)
Oenothera fruticosa (sundrops)
Oenothera perennis (small sundrops)
Ornithogalum umbellatum (star-of-Bethlehem)
Osmorhiza claytonii (sweet cicely)
Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)
Panax trifolius (dwarf ginseng)
Pedicularis canadensis (wood betony)
Peltandra virginica (arrow arum)
Penstemon digitalis (white beardtongue)
Phlox paniculata (garden phlox)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Polygala sanguinea (purple milkwort)
Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon's seal)
Polygonum arifolium (halberd-leaved tearthumb)
Polygonum hydropiperoides (mild water pepper)
Polygonum pensylvanicum (pink smartweed)
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb)
Pontedaria cordata (pickerelweed)
Potentilla recta (rough-fruited cinquefoil)
Potentilla simplex (common cinquefoil)
Prenanthes alba (rattlesnake root)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Pycnanthemum flexuosum (mountain mint)
Pycnanthemum virginianum (Virginia mountain mint)
Ranunculus acris (tall buttercup)
Ranunculus hispidus var. caricetorium (swamp buttercup)
Ranunculus repens (creeping buttercup)
Rudbeckia hirta v. pulcherrima (black-eyed Susan)
Rumex sp. (broad or curled dock)
Sagittaria latifolia (broad-leaved arrowhead)
Saururus cernuus (lizard's tail)
Saxifraga pensylvanica (swamp saxifrage)
Scutellaria galericulata (marsh skullcap)
Scutellaria lateriflora (mad-dog skullcap)
Senecio aureus (golden ragwort)
Silene latifolia (white campion)
Sisyrinchium angustifolium (stout blue-eyed grass)
Sium suave (water parsnip)
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal)
Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade)
Solidago altissima (tall goldenrod)
Solidago bicolor (silverrod)
Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)
Solidago flexicaulis (broad-leaved goldenrod)
Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)
Solidago rugosa (rough-stemmed goldenrod)
Sonchus oleraceus (sow thistle)
Sparganium americanum (lesser bur-reed)
Spiranthes vernalis (grass-leaved ladies tresses)
Stachys palustris (marsh hedge nettle)
Stellaria media (common chickweed)
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Tanacetum vulgare (tansy)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion)
Thalictrum sp. (meadow rue)
Tiarella cordifolia (foamflower)
Tradescantia virginiana (spiderwort)
Tragopogon pratensis (goatsbeard)
Triadenum virginicum (marsh St. Johnswort)
Trientalis borealis (starflower)
Trifolium agrarium (hop clover)
Trifolium aureumn (yellow clover)
Trifolium hybridum (alsike clover)
Trifolium pratense (red clover)
Trifolium procumbens (smaller hop clover)
Trifolium repens (white clover)
Trillium grandiflorum (big white trillium)
Triodanis perfoliata (Venus' looking-glass)
Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot)
Typha angustifolia (narrow-leaved cattail)
Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail)
Utricularia vulgaris (common bladderwort)
Uvularia perfoliatum (perfoliate-leaved bellwort)
Uvularia sessilifolia (sessile-leaved bellwort)
Veratrum viride (swamp hellebore)
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Verbascum blattaria (moth mullein)
Verbena hastata (blue vervain)
Verbena urticifolia (white vervain)
Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed)
Vicia cracca (cow vetch)
Viola cucullata (marsh blue violet)
Viola lanceolata (lance-leaved violet)
Viola pallens (northern white violet)
Viola sagittata (arrow-leaved violet)
Viola sororia (common blue violet)
Wolffia sp. (water meal)
Zizia aurea (golden Alexander)

Juncus effusus (soft rush)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Carex blanda
Carex comosa
Carex crinita
Carex folliculata
Carex grayi
Carex lurida
Carex sp. (Ovales group)
Carex squarrosa
Carex stricta (tussock sedge)
Carex vulpinoidea (foxlike sedge)
Cyperus strigosus (umbrella sedge)
Eleocharis ovata (blunt spike-rush)
Rhynchospora capitellata (beakrush)
Scirpus atrovirens dark green bulrush
Scirpus cyperinus (woolly grass bulrush)

Agrostis stolonifera (creeping bent grass)
Andropogon virginicus var. abbreviatus (broom-sedge)
Elytrigia repens (quack grass)
Festuca elatior (meadow fescue)
Glyceria septentrionalis (eastern meadow grass)
Glyceria striata (fowl meadow grass)
Leersia oryzoides (rice cut grass)
Leersia virginica (white grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum dichotomum (panic grass)
Panicum lanuginosum v. lanuginosum (panic grass)
Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass)
Phleum pratense (timothy grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little blue stem grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Dryopteris spinulosa (now changed) spinulose wood fern
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Osmunda regalis (royal fern)
Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern)
Rigidulum acrostichoides ?
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)
Thelypteris palustris (marsh fern)
Woodwardia areolata (netted chain fern)

Sphagnum spp. (sphagnum mosses)

* source: Morris County Planning Board. 2000. A Natural Resource Management Guide for the County of Morris.
Downy phlox *
featherfoil *
Virginia bunchflower *