Jamaica Bay Springs to Life

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, accessible a short drive or bike ride from Arverne By The Sea, is a natural wonder to behold. In the spring months, its 9,000 acres of unique landscape ‘spring’ to life—including a variety of rare native habitats like upland fields and woods, salt marshes, fresh and brackish water ponds, and, of course, an open expanse of bay. Visitors here are able to simply enjoy observing wildlife, hiking or biking the area’s many trails, kayaking, and a variety of frequently held educational ranger- and partner-led programs. From sunset tours to boat trips, it’s always a good idea to check out what’s happening today at Jamaica Bay: http://www.nyharborparks.org/visit/jaba.html.


The best place to start your visit to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is the Visitor Contact Station on Broad Channel in southeastern Queens. Many guided programs leave from here, as do many of the refuge’s scenic trails. Here, you will find information about the remarkable animal and plant life within the refuge, and learn about its history and the continuing impact humans have on the refuge. The impressive array of native fauna residing here includes small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, more than 60 species of butterflies, and horseshoe crabs. A visit here is an opportunity to learn about these animals, and protect them.


When the Osprey Arrive, Spring Truly Begins in Jamaica Bay


While the calendar may give the official first day of spring as March 21st, many local residents believe that the true start of the season is when the Osprey arrive in Jamaica Bay! Of the nearly 330 species of birds found here—making it one of the best places in New York City to observe migrating species—the osprey is our most famous winged friend. This is truly a must-see springtime panorama for avian enthusiasts.


Osprey migrate each year from their northern breeding grounds—like those nearby Arverne By The Sea and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge—to southern wintering spots. There is so much intrigue around the osprey—this species mates for life, though each pairing parts at the fall migration, not to reconvene again until the following spring. For example, in 2014 the first osprey of the season was sighted in Jamaica Bay on March 13th, and the southern migration took place in mid-September.


The chance to spot an osprey in the spring is truly one of the joys of living on the Rockaway Peninsula—what’s more, there is so much going on at the wildlife refuge and Ryan Visitor Center that it is well worth checking out their full roster of upcoming events. Some examples include Spring Peepers—a fascinating tree frog stroll, Have a Hoot with a Ranger junior ranger owl adventure, Woodcock Watch, and the Moon Shine full moon walk along Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge’s trails. The Spring Surprises heart-healthy and family-friendly nature walk is especially recommendable, as a true celebration of all this season of renewal and rejuvenation has to offer.


What Is the Best Way to Explore the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge?


There are several options for exploring the area in and around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife refuge. Many will tell you that the best way to get up-close-and-personal with the plants and animals is by boat or kayak. Take a tour or rent a vessel, and leave plenty of time to explore the many waterways.


Another fantastic option is to travel by bicycle. There are many bicycle trails in and around the local area. For example, the Jamaica Bay and nine bridge loop begins at the Canarsie Piers parking area, and makes a circle travelling clockwise around the bay. Leave time for a seafood feast as you approach Sheepshead Bay!


The final option is to go by foot. As you walk the trails and paths, make note of any avian species you see. This is the most leisurely way to see the refuge, and is easily combined with any kayak or bicycle adventure.


For more information regarding the many Jamaica Bay kayak trails, and to plan your visit, follow this link: http://www.nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/jamaica-bay-kayak-trails.htm. For kayak rental information from local company Wheel Fun Rentals, visit http://www.wheelfunrentals.com/Locations/New-York-5.