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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

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by Cristina Dimen (subscribe)
Cristina crafts pieces on travel, parenting and lifestyle. Connect with her at or and @CristinaDimen on Twitter. WN mentor link:
Published May 2nd 2012
When urban dwellers want to immerse themselves in nature, they have various options. About a 1.5-hour drive from downtown Manhattan, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, New York offers a much-needed reprieve from daily stresses. Nature lovers, especially bird enthusiasts have over 9,000 acres of verdant green space to explore.

Watch from afar as a bird cools off.

Upon arrival, guests drop by the Visitor Contact Station, a Gold LEED-certified building to pick up brochures and speak to the park rangers who lead tours along the trails. Don't forget to pick up the free walking permits if you want to embark on a nature hike.

Check out the exhibits and speak to park rangers at the Visitor Contact Station.

Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, the Wildlife Refuge includes Jamaica Bay, which is a 26-square-mile estuary. Its waters flow into New York Harbor, creating a nutrient-rich habitat wherein various fish species, horseshoe crabs and different types of turtles and other reptiles, plus amphibians live and frolic.

About 16.7 miles away from downtown Manhattan.

Considered a major bird sanctuary in the Northeast, birdwatchers will delight in the 300-plus species that fly over, nest and breed before migrating onward. Go on a self-guided or ranger-led walking tour along the hiking trails. Listen carefully, you may even hear field crickets, or spot flitting butterflies and small mammals as you explore the flora.

You'll spot birds everywhere.

Use binoculars to check out these baby eagles in the nest.

A bird surveys the land.

All around you, nature's activities unfold—in the air, on land and in the ponds and marsh. Bring your own binoculars so you don't miss any of the magic.

Mommy swan and her cygnets.

Canada geese and a blue-hued bird on the bottom right-hand corner.

A flock of Canada geese fly overhead.

Just make sure you take note of this three-leaf plant—poison ivy, and avoid contact. You'll save yourself from painful rashes and itchiness. Remember that old adage, "leaves of three, let them be."

Explore the flora with caution. Steer clear of poison ivy.

And when you and your family get hungry, take your brown bagged lunch to the picnic benches located near the parking area, close to the Visitor Contact Station entrance.

Stay quiet while you eat because you'll still see wildlife, like this little bird perched atop the wooden fence by the picnic area.

Eat quietly and the birds linger around.

After spending a serene time exploring the great outdoors, you and your family will likely want to come back. Check the website for details on kayaking, sailing, cruises and other activities. When the urge to escape the city and bask in nature strikes again, you'll know that you can always go back to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
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Why? Embrace and unwind amidst nature's beauty.
When: Trails open daily, dawn to dusk. Visitor Center open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 1 Cross Bay Boulevard, Queens, NY
Cost: No entrance fees. Some activities may incur fees. Check website.
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