One of the few remaining undeveloped estuaries on Long Island is the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge on the south shore of Shirley area. About half of the refuge consists of aquatic habitats, including marine seagrass beds in the bay, salt marshes, fresh marshes, shrub swamps, and red maple swamps. The refuge's salt marshes, when combined with the adjacent salt marshes owned by the State of New York, make the Long Island salt marsh one of the largest continuous sanctuaries on Long Island.
Over half of the refuge is upland, in which they feature the rare species of Pine Barren vegetation featuring pitch pine, oak-pine, mixed oak, pioneer hardwoods, and upland shrubs. There are a lot of different kinds of wildlife and plants on the refuge. The Wertheim Bird Observatory has documented approximately 300 species of birds. Black ducks make up the majority of the refuge's winter residents, a species in decline across the nation.
This refuge is also an excellent bird migration corridor for shorebirds, raptors and songbirds due to its coastal location. This refuge was established primarily in order to protect the Carmans River Estuary for migratory birds. The River of New York is one of the largest rivers on the Island as well as one of its designated Wild and Scenic rivers by NY State. A total of eight federally and/or state-protected species are found on the refuge.
In Shirley, near the Montauk Highway, lies Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Across the 2550 acres of the preserve is Carman's River, which flows into Bellport Bay. The preserve is home to a variety of habitats, including a number of waterfowl species. Several miles of trails can be found on the property that are divided in loops of one mile each. There is no better way to appreciate the natural beauty of the preserve than canoeing on the river through it!
This complex located on Long Island includes seven national wildlife refuges, two refuge sub-units, and one wildlife management area. Together, the ten units cover an area of approximately 6,500 acres. A refuge complex headquarters and visitor center are located at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.
You will walk around woods and wetlands on the wide and mostly flat trails. It is highly recommended to use an insect repellent this time of year as there are a lot of insects. It is always best to bring your own water, but make sure to take it out after use.
Located at the entrance of the preserve off of Smith Road, the Visitor Center and parking facility has excellent views of the preserve. Long Island’s ecosystems are depicted in interactive dioramas. The center also has a gift shop run by the non-profit Friends of Wertheim, as well as toilet facilities.
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