National Wildlife Refuge System

Boat Junkyard at Forsythe Refuge

More than 130 boats were tossed into the marshes of Forsythe Refuge, NJ, by Hurricane Sandy
Credit: USFWS

Hurricane Sandy left behind a 22-mile long debris field in the marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge near Atlantic City, NJ.  The powerful storm surge left behind more than 130 boats carrying thousands of gallons of fuel, oil and propane tanks, roofs, lumber and many other potentially hazardous materials. Some boats have been retrieved; however, others remain stranded in hard to reach areas.

A team of 20 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specialists is on site evaluating the level of contamination on the refuge. The refuge is working the New Jersey State Police to tag the boats and identify their owners, who will need a special use permit to get on the refuge and retrieve their boats. 

Wildlife Drive remains closed due to hurricane damage, but the Songbird, Akers Woodland and Leed’s Eco trails all remain open, as well as foot access to Gull Pond Tower.  The deCamp Wildlife Trail in Brick Township and Holgate remain closed.  The visitor information center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.  Scott’s Landing Boat Launch and the Barnegat Observation Platform are both open. All fees have been temporarily waived. 

An important bright spot for Forsythe Refuge is the return of waterbirds, says visitor services manager Don Freiday. The hurricane washed over all the fresh water impoundments, turning them into salt water ponds that were five feet deep rather than one-and-a-half. “When we would normally have tens of thousands of waterbirds,” says Freiday, “we had none.”  But the salinity is now at nearly normal levels and the weekly surveys of black ducks, mallards, Northern pintail and green-winged teal are normal as well.

News video of boats at Forsythe Refuge

News video of Forsythe Refuge damage assessment and monitoring

Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge Facebook page

Last updated: December 5, 2012