This Wildlife Refuge was created in 1960 and was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1966. In 1968, part of the Refuge became the first wilderness area in the United States under the control of the Department of the Interior. The 12 square miles of the Refuge are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
This Wikipedia article (visit link
) explains the geologic significance of the site:
"The Great Swamp is the remnant of a lake bottom of a once-mighty glacial lake called Glacial Lake Passaic that about 15,000 to 11,000 years ago extended for 30 miles (48 km) in length and was 10 miles (16 km) wide, in what is presently northern New Jersey. The lake was formed by the melting waters of the retreating Wisconsin Glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. The glacier had pushed a moraine ahead of its advance, a rubble of soil and rocks that plugged the existing outlet for the waters that drained into the area normally. As the retreating glacier melted, the waters rose to create the lake before a new outlet began to allow the water to exit at a much higher elevation, hence, the lake became established.
Hydrographic image of a typical drainage basin, called a watershed in the United StatesThe course of the Passaic River that had drained the swamp prior to the formation of the glacial lake, became altered due to the plug of its outlet and the water released as the glacier melted filled the basin before it was able to seek a new path to vent into the sea. A range of mountains to the west of Morristown formed the western boundary of the new lake and the most easterly line of the Watchung Mountains became the eastern boundary. The tops of some of the Watchung range became islands in the great lake. Water that had vented through, or to the south of the Watchung range found a new path that altered, forever, the old drainage paths and, when the plug collapsed the river still was forced to travel north through the length of the range before finding a new outlet near present day Paterson where it could manage the eastern turn toward the sea."
Wikipedia also has this to say about the wildlife in the Refuge:
"The Great Swamp is a migration-resting and feeding area of permanent habitat for more than 244 species of birds. The major routes of birds migrating along the eastern portion of the United States follow the corridor that includes the Great Swamp as an important stopping place for rest and nutrition.
Many species of birds reside permanently in the watershed. Deer, fish, fox, frogs, muskrat, raccoons, snakes, turtles, as well as many insects and a wide variety of wildflowers and plants call the refuge "home". Some of the animals hunted by the prehistoric native inhabitants and colonists, such as bear and beaver, are encountered occasionally."
The Refuge's website (visit link
) has this interesting history of the site:
"For a barrel of rum, 15 kettles, 4 pistols, 4 cutlasses plus other goods, and 30 pounds cash, the Delaware Indians in 1708 deeded a 30,000-acre tract, including the Great Swamp, to English investors. Later, settlements dotted the area and 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.
Small farming operations such as these became uneconomical and gradually disappeared. Consequently, much of the cleared upland returned to woods and the lower flats reverted to swampland. Various modern uses have been planned for the Great Swamp: flood control in the 1920s; drainage projects in the 1930s; and a major jet airport proposal in 1959.
It was the threat of the jetport that enabled the Great Swamp Committee of the North American Wildlife Foundation to muster the aid of a significant number of volunteers. This effort raised more than a million dollars to purchase nearly 3,000 acres, which were donated to the Department of the Interior. The refuge was established by an act of Congress on November 3, 1960. These acres formed the nucleus of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Through the years, additional acres have been added to the original tract. In 1966, the Refuge was designated a Registered National Natural landmark. Then in 1968, the eastern half of the Refuge was designated as a Wilderness Area by Congress."