Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area - Sussex County, NJ
Bear Swamp Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is located along the eastern slope of the Kittatinny Ridge in Hampton Township. It's a mix of forested wetlands with deciduous and mixed forested uplands, and it is a great place for birding.
This site includes the Lake Owassa Bear Swamp Natural Heritage Priority Site composed of a large mixed hardwood/conifer swamp forest and the adjacent upland hardwood forest. Designated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Natural Heritage Priority Sites are considered the state’s most significant natural areas. This particular site contains a rare wetland community and several imperiled species of birds and plants.
Bear Swamp WMA is also part of the Delaware Valley Water Gap Macrosite IBA. IBA's (Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) are globally significant bird habitat. Bear Swamp WMA provides breeding habitat for several raptor species including state-endangered Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks and Northern Goshawks, state-threatened Barred Owls and state-special concern Sharp-shinned Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks.
Additional state-listed birds regularly breeding at this site include the state-threatened Red-headed Woodpeckers and the state-special concern Cerulean Warblers, Winter Wrens, Black-throated Green Warblers, Veeries, and Northern Parulas. Regional responsibility species for forest and scrub-shrub habitats also breed at Bear Swamp WMA.
DIRECTIONS: Turn Right out of driveway. After 0.5 miles turn Right at stop sign onto CR 521 North. After 2.7 miles turn Left at stop sign onto CR 521 North. After 0.9 miles, when the road splits, stay to the Right for CR 633 North. After 2.8 miles turn Left at the traffic light onto CR 655 North/Morris Turnpike. After 0.5 miles turn Left onto Stempert Road. After 0.3 miles the road will turn to dirt; proceed to parking area.
ACCESS AND PARKING: The Stempert Road parking area provides access to the most easily traversed location at the WMA; however, there are also small gravel parking areas for access on U.S. Route 206 on the southbound side and Kemah Lake Road. Note: there are not yet marked trails at this site, so particularly adventurous hikers should consider bringing a compass or GPS unit. Be aware of hunting seasons, and wear appropriate blaze orange colors, or better yet, visit on Sundays when hunting is prohibited. The habitat lends itself to black bear and sightings are most common from spring to fall, so be sure to review the rules of bear etiquette.
A CLOSER LOOK: The easiest walking area is from the Stempert Road access. There is a series of old woodland roads that traverse this section of the WMA, referred to as Culvermere. Although this is a relatively easy in/out trail, a GPS would be useful for extensive exploration since the trails are not marked. This section of the WMA provides a medley of habitat--successional growth forest, freshwater wetlands and open water.
Please note that state WMAs and facilities are "carry in - carry out" and trash receptacles are not provided; please plan accordingly to not leave any trash or recyclables behind.
The following are prohibited: camping, swimming, picnicking, dumping, cutting or damaging vegetation, removing timber or firewood, alcoholic beverages, geocaching and fires.
Wildlife Management Areas are closed from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. unless engaged in lawful hunting, fishing or trapping activities. Special permission may be granted for division approved activities.
No person shall operate an unregistered vehicle on roads under the control of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. All motor vehicles are restricted to established public roads and parking areas. The use of dog sleds and dog carts, off-road vehicles, ATVs, motorized trailbikes or snowmobiles is prohibited on all Wildlife Management Areas unless authorized by the Division.
Best Time for Viewing
Best Months and Seasons for Viewing