Situated in the outer coastal plain on the Cape May Peninsula and within the richly diverse Cape May Forest, Lizard Tail Swamp Nature Preserve is home to a lush and diverse habitat. The nature preserve protects a globally rare Cape May lowland swamp community located at the headwaters of Bidwell Creek. Bidwell Creek, which flows into the Delaware Bay, provides sediment to surrounding beaches and salt marsh that birds like the red knot depend on for stopover habitat during migration.
Fed by groundwater, the lowland swamps are replete with a variety of natural communities: pine-oak forest, coastal plain mixed-oak forest and sweet gum and red maple swamp. Lizard Tail Swamp Nature Preserve adjoins the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, thus extending a corridor of forest which provides critical feeding and resting habitat for migrating birds and the primary source of drinking water for people who live in and visit the area.
The Nature Conservancy has developed a trail system on the nature preserve funded through a grant received from the Federal Highway Administration and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The three-mile trail system allows for visitor access while avoiding sensitive ecological areas.
Protecting Land to Protect Clean Water
As the world’s population grows and develops, demand for water has increased rapidly, putting increased pressure on watersheds. Protecting the wetlands along the spine of the Cape May Peninsula protects both the quantity and quality of drinking water. By preserving the health of land around rivers and lakes, we can effectively keep pollution out of our water.
Continued resort and year-round development is increasing stress on the forests and groundwater that sustain the streams and wetlands of the peninsula. These activities not only endanger the ecological integrity of the peninsula, but also threaten a critical part of the global system of bird migration.
Cape May is especially important in the fall migrations of songbirds and hawks that have only just hatched in the summer. While adult eastern songbirds and hawks migrate further north, along the Kittatinny Ridge and Appalachians, young birds migrate along the coast at places like Cape May, making this area critical to maintaining and even increasing bird populations.