Glades Wildlife Refuge
Glades Wildlife Refuge is an expanse of diverse landscapes: vast tidal marshes, wooded uplands, beaches along the Delaware Bay, and a remarkable old growth forest. Here the cycles and rhythm of the natural world are evident in the seasonal weather, migrating birds, and fluctuating tides.
Grasses that tolerate tidal, brackish water dominate Glades, such as salt hay. These grasses provide rich habitat for crustaceans, mollusks, and birds, and are an important food source for ducks and other waterfowl. In addition, the grasses filter pollutants from the water and buffer the shoreline from flooding and erosion.
The refuge also includes forested swamps where sweetgum, holly, and red maple jockey for position with pitch pines. A section of old-growth forest, known as Bear Swamp, includes sourgum trees that are more than 450 years old.
Every May, thousands of horseshoe crabs leave the ocean depths to spawn on the moonlit beaches of the Delaware Bay. The eggs, full of fat and protein, are critical sustenance for migrating Red Knots, which lose up to half their body weight in their grueling journey from South America. An estimated 90 percent of the entire population of these federally-threatened shore birds can be found on the Bay—including Raybin’s Beach at Glades Wildlife Refuge—in a single day. After a century of decline, the population of horseshoe crabs is now holding steady.
The refuge is part of four “Important Bird Areas” (a National Audubon Society designation).
daily, dawn to dusk
Biting flies and ticks are common at Glades, especially from mid-April to mid-September. Trails are not maintained during this period, so be prepared for challenging trails if you choose to visit. Long pants and long-sleeve shirts, repellents, and head netting are recommended. (The good news is that all these insects mean an abundant food source for birds, which is one of the reasons Glades is such an excellent place to bird watch!)
Before using the water trails, check tide charts at saltwatertides.com. It is best to plan your trip around high tide (i.e., one hour before to one hour after). For your safety, stick to marked water trials.
1. Main information kiosk is located at Turkey Point Rd. and Maple Ave.
2. Additional trailhead parking is located throughout the preserve. See trail map for details.
In 1964, Natural Lands celebrated the preservation of what was once called “Snow Goose Marsh,” an area of brackish wetlands along the coast of Delaware Bay. The fledgling preserve was the result of a donation of several contiguous parcels, the smallest of which was a mere 1.6 acres. Despite its humble beginnings, Glades Wildlife Refuge is now the largest of Natural Lands’ preserves, the result of nearly five decades of patient, persistent acquisition of adjoining lands.
Tatnall (Tat) Starr dedicated four decades of his life to Natural Lands Trust, joining the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Conservationists (our founding organization) in 1967. Upon his death in 2006, Natural Lands received a gift of $250,000, the result of Tat designating the organization as a beneficiary of his IRA. We used the gift to establish a stewardship fund to help offset expenses incurred caring for our network of nature preserves.
While Tat was devoted to land preservation throughout the region, our conservation efforts in New Jersey were always closest to his heart. He once wrote, “I feel a special warmth toward Glades, having been involved since the very first parcel was acquired by Allston Jenkins [founder of the Philadelphia Conservationists]. Glades and Bear Swamp are marvelous natural areas, and I consider it a major achievement that they are now perpetually preserved.”
In appreciation of Tat Starr’s service to Natural Lands, we established the I. Tatnall Starr Memorial Trail, which winds through Glades’ marshes and woodlands to a peaceful observation platform, only a stone’s throw from a vacation lodge where Tat and his family spent many years enjoying this special environment.