Victory Lakes in Williamstown, New Jersey.
Sunset on Victory Lakes Victory Lakes in Williamstown, New Jersey. © Kristin Castenschiold

Stories in New Jersey

New Jersey Nature in Autumn

Our small state offers an abundance of amazing natural areas that you can visit year-round. What you'll see at each preserve changes with the seasons.

Hutton, a Northern Saw-Whet Owl, at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre in Campbellville, Ontario. She was hit by a car in 2008,and lost her sight, making her unable to be released back into the wild.
Northern Saw-Whet Owl Each fall, migrating owls, songbirds, hawks and more funnel into southern New Jersey’s Cape May peninsula in great numbers. © Megan Lorenz

Fall Migration

Cape May, New Jersey is a fall migration hot spot and an excellent time of year to visit both our South Cape May Meadows Preserve and Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek. Expect to see songbirds, hawks, owls, monarchs and dragonflies as they funnel into southern New Jersey’s peninsula in great numbers. Visitors to both preserves can enjoy amenities like maintained trails, a picnic pavilion, bird blinds, benches, visitor kiosks and artists’ easels.

Each fall, hikers to High Mountain enjoy the changing colors of the seasons.
High Mountain Park Preserve Each fall, hikers to High Mountain enjoy the changing colors of the seasons. © Jim Wright

Vibrant Fall Colors

In northern New Jersey, the leaves start to change from greens to golds and reds early at High Mountain Park Preserve. The preserve's panaramic vistas, stunning views and 11 miles of hiking trails through dense forests provide visitors with a beautiful backdrop to view fall foliage at its finest. Be sure to check out the rock shelters in the Franklin Clove section of the preserve, determined to be sites of prehistoric human habitation. Native Americans of the Lenape tribe wintered in the Clove during the 1600s.

Goldenrod Goldenrod in peak bloom at the Garrett Family Preserve in Cape Island Creek. © Lily Mullock/TNC
Monarch Butterfly Monarchs migrate through Cape May each fall. © Charles Larry

Migrating Monarchs and Gorgeous Goldenrod 

In autumn, a must-see is the gorgeous Goldenrod that blankets much of the Garrett Family Preserve in Cape Island Creek. This bright flowering plant blooms in late August through October and is an important source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies.

Goldenrod Bloom A virtual walking tour of the goldenrod bloom at the Garrett Family Preserve along the pollinator trail.

Fungi of the Maurice River Bluffs Preserve

After a generous period of rainfall, many fungi make their presence known by sending up mushrooms—lots and lots of mushrooms.

Cauliflower-shaped purple mushroom on forest floor.
Close-up of a deep orange mushroom growing on a tree.
Delicate orangish-yellow mushrooms.
Large, fat brown mushroom on bright green forest floor.
Spongy, yellow closed-top mushrooms.
White mushrooms covering the forest floor.
Leaves and pine needles surround a small mushroom.
Rocky, wet soil, forest with bright orange mushroom.
Close-up of a yellow mushroom on forest floor.
Orange mushrooms growing horizontally on tree.

Fall is for fungi at the Maurice River Bluffs Preserve! Plan your visit a day or so after a good rain and you will see a plethora of different species. Take advantage of the 6 mile trail system, complete with a 35-foot long bridge, steps and rails throughout the steeper parts that make the trails accessible to all levels of hikers. 

Mud Pond, at the heart of the Johnsonburg preserve, is a limestone wetland providing excellent habitat for rare plant species, along with waterfowl and other wildlife. 
Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve This limestone wetland provides excellent habitat for rare plant species. © Dwight Hiscano

Scenic Swamp

During autumn at Johnsonburg Swamp Preserve, visitors experience the color of familiar favorites, and also that of natural wonders that are less common. A must-see located in the heart of the preserve is Mud Pond, a limestone wetland providing excellent habitat for rare plant species, along with waterfowl and other wildlife. The scenic limestone outcrops that overlook the pond to the west and north are the largest rock formations of their kind in the state. 

A Bevy of Birds

Another fall spectacle you won't want to miss is the annual tree swallow migration at the South Cape May Meadows Preserve. Here's a sneak peek in the video below. 

Tree Swallow Migration During the early fall, hundreds of thousands of tree swallows flock to the South Cape May Meadows Preserve. This marks the beginning of their migration, which takes 3-4 months for them to complete.

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