Places We Protect

Garrett Family Preserve at Cape Island Creek

New Jersey

A wildflower field in full bloom.
Garrett Family Preserve Wildflowers Wildflowers of the Garrett Family Preserve. © Damon Noe/TNC

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



An ever-changing landscape defines the Garrett Family Preserve, with tides constantly flowing in and out of the salt marshes of Cape Island Creek. The saltwater tidal marsh is a nursery for many fish species, a place where shorebirds can forage and fiddler crabs make their homes. 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 seasonal blooms of the wildflower fields provide crucial habitat and food sources for pollinators, as well as excellent photo opportunities for visitors. 

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has added many people-friendly amenities including a picnic pavilion, bird blind, artists’ easels and an interactive monarch butterfly statue, to make the visitor experience enjoyable. Visitors can explore more than four miles of flat, sturdy nature trails by foot or by bike. The many picnic tables and benches located throughout the preserve give visitors the opportunity to sit back and soak in the sights and sounds of nature. Along the pollinator trail, visitors can enjoy the Braille trail and its accompanying audio tour. Read more about this trail under our Visit tab and learn more about the preserve's features and trail conditions with the visitor's guide



Leashed dogs only permitted November 1 - March 31


Open year-round during daylight hours.


Birding, Walking, Wildflowers, Biking, Photography, Tidal Marsh Views, Running, Monarch Sculpture


180 acres

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Photos from Garrett Family Preserve

Tag your preserve visits on Instagram with #GarrettFamilyPreserve to have your photos featured here!

Green vines covering the top and sides of a wooden arch.
A monarch butterfly pollinating goldenrod.
A diamondback terrapin is walking on the marsh floor.
Bright yellow goldenrod plants are against a blue sky background.
A blue tree swallow is perched on a small branch.
An orange butterfly sculpture sits in a field.
A green nature trail sign with both Braille and English text sits alongside a meadow.
Four picnic tables under a shaded gazebo.
An osprey is flying while holding a fish.
A carpenter bee is resting on the flowers of a common milkweed plant.


  • TNC 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.

    For detailed information about the preserve's amenities and trail conditions, please review the Visitor's Guide.

    • Welcome kiosk with trail map and preserve history
    • More than four miles of trails

    • Mobile bird blind with hand railings 

    • Picnic tables and benches along trails 

    • Shaded pavilion with picnic tables, including one ADA-compliant picnic table 

    • Insect hotel for native pollinators 

    • Three adjustable art easels  

    • Flat, wide walking trails accessible by visitors with strollers or wheelchairs
    • Interactive monarch statue 
    • Spring Migration: Mid-May to mid-June marks peak activity for migrating shorebirds and songbirds. Migrating and year-round songbirds are most audible and visible during this time, as they are attracting mates. 

    • Weather depending, May-July is when the 4-acre wildflower field is in bloom.  

    • June, July and August are the best months to catch a glimpse of the osprey chicks. With a scope or binoculars, they are visible from the bird blind. During these months the chicks can be seen being fed, learning to fly, and resting on the perch posts.   

    • Fall Migration: Starting late August-October, fall migration for southbound songbirds and raptors takes place. The second week of October is the peak of raptor migration activity. 

    • Fall Migration: Starting late August-October, monarch butterflies begin their journey south to Mexico. During these months, large groups of monarchs can be seen feeding on and pollinating the goldenrod.  

    • Late August-Mid October is when the goldenrod is in full bloom. The preserve radiates yellow and gold.  

    • Winter months are the best times to see northern harriers hunting in the marshes. 

  • To minimize disturbance of state protected and endangered species of this nature preserve, please follow these guidelines.

    • Dogs are welcome from November 1st to March 1st and must be leashed and picked up after.
    • Bikers, please yield to pedestrians.
    • Please carry out all garbage with you.
    • Visitors should stay on marked trails. 
    • The flowers are for everyone; please don’t pick them.
    • Horses are not permitted on this preserve. 
  • TNC welcomes you to explore the Garrett Family Preserve Braille Trail, a nature trail for people who are blind or have low vision. On this tour, you will learn about the preserve's history, ecological importance and wildlife. The trail is roughly half a mile long with a guide rope that runs along the right side of the trail. There are plastic stoppers at various points along the guide rope: one stopper indicates an upcoming sign; two stoppers mean there is a bench where you can sit and relax. The path is roughly 4 feet wide with a flat, level grass surface. Signs along the trail are provided in both Braille and English print. A free audio tour is available through the VoiceMap app, which can be downloaded ahead of time. 

    When you pull into the parking lot, head left to the far end of the parking lot to access the entrance of the trail. The tour begins just beyond the entrance sign at the northwest end of the parking lot.

An aerial view of the Garrett Family Preserve trails.
Garrett Family Preserve Trails The Garrett Family Preserve offers seven nature trails that bring you through wildflower fields, successional fields and taller tree lines. © TNC


Originally slated for development, TNC acquired the property in 2000, as 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 TNC 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.  

Dream Machine Monarch

Nature heals. Nature transforms. Feel the positive transformational force of nature with our interactive monarch butterfly sculpture. The sculpture, named Dream Machine Monarch, was designed by artist Rubem Robierb and is meant to portray the evolution, possibilities and dreams that nature provides to people.

Celebrate nature and be a part of our colorful kaleidoscope (that’s what a group of butterflies is called!) by taking a photo with our Dream Machine Monarch. This statue was established at the preserve the very same week monarch butterflies were added to the endangered species list. Please visit the preserve, take a photo with the statue and share it using #TNCMonarch to help us spread information about this beloved species and the importance of conserving their habitat. 

Four people are standing in front of a butterfly statue.
Monarch Mania Dream Machine Monarch's arrival was celebrated on July 22, 2022 by TNC and members of the Cape May community. © Lily Mullock/TNC

Nearby Preserves

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