Situated in the outer coastal plain on the Cape May peninsula and within the richly diverse Cape May Forest, Indian Trail Swamp Preserve is home to a lush and diverse habitat. The preserve derives its name from Indian Trail Swamp Road, which grew from the local trails used hundreds of years ago by Native American tribes as they crossed from the bay to the ocean to fish and gather oysters and clams.
The preserve was established by The Nature Conservancy in 1998 with 110 acres. Today, Indian Trail Swamp Preserve encompasses 725 acres protecting the globally rare, state-imperiled Cape May lowland swamp community.
Significance of Indian Trail Swamp
The forested wetlands of Indian Trail represent one of the largest, unbroken forests remaining on the lower half of the Cape May peninsula. In addition to the rare plants and natural communities, the site plays an extremely important role in providing habitat for migratory and resident birds. The forest is a critical stopover for migrating songbirds as they pass through the Cape May area during their spring and fall migration.
There are 4 main species of shorebirds that use the Delaware Bay as a stopover area during their northward migration: red knot, semipalmated sandpiper, ruddy turnstone, and sanderlings. For some of these species, significant proportions of the hemispheric populations concentrate along the bay in May and June.
The migratory flight of the red knot is an example of the extreme distances shorebirds travel and the dependence they have on stopover areas such as Delaware Bay. Red knots arrive along the Delaware Bay in late May severely underweight after flying 7,000 miles from South America. They double their weight during their 2-3 week stay before flying 1,000 miles in early June to their breeding grounds in the low Canadian Arctic.
The site also supports a significant concentration of plants considered imperiled in New Jersey, including glade spurge, dwarf azalea, dog-fennel thoroughwort and Walter’s St. John’s Wort.
By conserving Indian Trail Swamp and natural areas throughout the Cape May peninsula, The Nature Conservancy continues to protect the Delaware Bayshores, an internationally important pinch-point for bird migration throughout the western hemisphere.