Places We Protect

Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek

New Jersey

A haven for migrating birds, raptors, bumblebees and butterflies.



The Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek—upland forest, farm fields and tidal marsh and part of the watershed that includes the Conservancy's noted South Cape May Meadows Preserve—was originally slated for development.

Acquired by the Conservancy in 2000, the preserve offered an unusual opportunity to manage a significant piece of land for migratory songbirds, whose stopover habitat, especially at the southern tip of the peninsula, has been all but wiped out.

In 2013, the generosity of the Garrett family enabled The Nature Conservancy to further protect Cape Island Creek for future generations by acquiring crucial land, improving and stewarding habitat, performing coastal research and installing enhanced visitor amenities.

With its expansive native wildflower meadows, successional fields and taller tree lines, the preserve is a haven for migrating songbirds, raptors, and pollinators like bumblebees and monarch butterflies. The saltwater tidal marsh is a nursery for many fish species, a place where shorebirds can forage and fiddler crabs make their homes. The Nature Conservancy has added many people-friendly amenities including a picnic pavilion, bird blind and artists’ easels, to make the visitor experience enjoyable.




Wildflowers, trail system, pollinators


180 acres

Explore our work in this region

The Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek is home to over four miles of scenic trails, where visitors can enjoy amenities including a picnic pavilion, bird blind and artists’ easels.

What to See

The Conservancy has planted native shrubs, fruit-bearing tree islands and wildflowers, and maintains the formerly overgrown fields in an early successional state which maximizes the benefits for wildlife, especially native and migratory birds.

  • Check out the tall trees at the fields’ edges—they provide hunting perches for raptors like the Red-Tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk and Great Horned Owl.
  • The Yellow-Rumped Warbler and Eastern Meadowlark are just two of the species that make use of the native, berry-producing trees and shrubs, like black cherry, hackberry and flowering dogwood.
  • Bird species such as the American Woodcock and American Goldfinch use the preserve's fields and meadow habitat for feeding, camouflage, singing and nesting.
  • The salt marsh habitat attracts wading birds and raptors such as Osprey and Northern Harriers that need a steady diet of fish and other aquatic invertebrates.

Native pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, rely on the pollinator-friendly flowers and grasses planted here at the preserve.

  • Look for common milkweed, wild bergamot, showy goldenrod, purple coneflower, giant sunflower and mistflower.

The salt marsh at Cape Island Creek is ever-changing, as water flows in and out during the daily tidal cycles. The frequency and level of tidal flooding divides the salt marsh into three distinct zones each with different plants and animals: high marsh, low marsh, and mudflat.

  • High Marsh: Watch where you step around the marsh—busy Fiddler Crabs could be underfoot! These active crustaceans scurry from their upland burrows to muddy areas to feed on microorganisms that live on the outside of sand grains.
  • Low Marsh: This habitat is partially flooded with salt water except during low tides, and its protected shallows are a haven for young fish, crabs and shrimp.
  • Mudflat and Tidal Creeks: In the area where the mudflat meets the lowland, Ribbed Mussels attach to each other and to the base of the grasses. They help to stabilize the marsh and filter water. Shorebirds like Sandpipers will gather on the mudflat to probe below its surface for food like worms and small clams.

Preserve Guidelines

  • Open dawn to dusk.
  • Bicyclers, please yield to walkers.
  • No motor vehicles allowed.
  • Please carry out what you carry in.

Download a trail map here.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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Virtual Visit Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Garrett Family Preserve with our ambient walking tour.

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