Daytrip Discoveries: Glades Wildlife Refuge

December 22, 2014

By Dulcie Flaharty, Vice President of Community Partnerships

Dulcie’s “Daytrip Discoveries” represent her quest to visit all 17 of Natural Lands Trust’s publicly accessible nature preserves within one year–an adventure she hopes will inspire others to do the same! Dulcie was the Executive Director of Montgomery County Lands Trust, which merged with Natural Lands Trust in 2012.

In early December, 29 energetic hikers gathered at Natural Lands Trust’s Glades Wildlife Refuge along the Delaware Bay. We were eager to visit the Preserve’s old-growth forest, and to warm up with a vigorous hike. Among those on the excursion were Natural Lands Trust staffers Steve Eisenhower, Brian Johnson, and Debbie Beer.

Glades Hike Gathering 1

Glades Wildlife Refuge is the result of decades of land conservation work—beginning in 1964—and is comprised of 222 separate parcels. The 7, 700-acre preserve is the largest of Natural Lands Trust’s 42 preserves.

Our pathway through forests of sourgum, sweetgum, swamp chestnut oak, holly, pitchpine, and sweetbay magnolia kept us busy with tree identification. With almost every footstep, we were reminded that this was a swampy forest. Mosses and fungi dotted the pathways. Standing water was often visible between the trees.

Moss on leafy floor

Watery Forest Floor

Sourgum and swamp chestnut oak stood together as stately guardians of the swamp.

Chestnut Swamp Oak & Sour gum standing tall

Susan McNeill, a member of Natural Lands Trust’s Force of Nature® volunteer corps, joined us on the hike and enjoyed visiting the sandy venues that were a surprise to many on the trip.

Sandy trail with Susan

While at the beach, looking over the large 1,000-acre “lake,” Regional Director Steve Eisenhower told the story of how sand and gravel mining began here in the 1920s. The product of the mining fueled a burgeoning glass manufacturing industry in South Jersey along with producing an important component for many road-building projects.

Steve explains the history of the lakes

Big Lake through trees

Excited by the day’s unexpected sights, a final loop walk took us to one of the largest trees on the preserve. A massive sweetgum welcomed us and made many of us feel very small, as if we gathered at the foot of an unpretentious and elegant giant.

Giant Sweet Gum tree

On the way back to our cars, we stopped for another lakeside view. A keen-eyed birder spotted a circling Bald Eagle across the water. We all focused our binoculars and were delighted as the group spotted five more eagles, both mature and juvenile.

Our four-hour visit to Glades Wildlife Refuge was proof of the wild diversity found there… it is a wonderful place for those who revel in knowing that such a places exist and are protected and stewarded forever.

As we hiked out of Bear Swamp West, one last swamp could be seen along our route and provided a fitting finale to an adventure filled with a wonderful assortment of new experiences.

Last swamp heading home

When planning a trip to Glades, remember that it is a remote location. Please visit the preserve page for info to fully enjoy your visit.