Enclosed in a semicircle of wooded hills nearly 200 feet high, the marsh at Wading River lies like an emerald along an otherwise unbroken coast of high bluffs on Long Island’s north shore. Although there are many salt marshes on the Island’s northern shore, they are rare along the 53-mile expanse between Port Jefferson and Orient Point. The preserve is a wonderful place to explore the world of the salt marsh, where plants and animals must be able to survive in the extremes presented by the tide, salt and sun.
Native Americans once harvested the abundant quahogs and periwinkles in Wading River Marsh’s shellfish flats. Wading River is believed to have been inspired by the Indian name Pauquaconsuk, meaning "the river where we wade for thick, round-shelled clams." Archaeological digs have found evidence of hunting and shellfishing by Native Americans as early as 3,500 BC.
The Nature Conservancy set about protecting the area in 1968. Dorothy C. Kempf donated 75 acres between 1971 and 1980. Most of the remaining acreage was donated by 12 other individuals.