The Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Morton National Wildlife Refuge

This 187-acre Refuge includes Jessups Neck and contains exceptionally diverse habitats. Sandy, gravel, and rocky beaches fringe the peninsula, and the wooded bluffs of Jessups Neck overlook the Peconic and Noyack Bays. The remainder of the Refuge is upland forest, brackish and freshwater ponds, saltmarsh, a lagoon and open fields. After years of agriculture and occasional fires, the land is reverting to a natural state. These habitats provide for a diversity of wildlife including deer, fox and other common mammals, reptiles, songbirds, waterbirds and raptors. Bay and sea ducks are common during winter, and wading birds and shorebirds are easily observed in the warmer months. The adjacent bays are used by marine turtles.

Of the 13 principal Indian tribes on Long Island, the Montauks and the Shinnecocks once occupied what is now the Morton National Wildlife Refuge. In 1640, John Farrington, John Jessup, and other settlers from Lynn, Massachusetts, founded the colony of South Hampton. The peninsula was named Jessups Neck when the land was deeded to John Jessup in 1679. Ownership of the area passed through two other families until it was donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1954 by Elizabeth Morton.

The Refuge is managed to protect a unique natural area for migratory birds. Endangered and threatened species such as piping plovers, least terns, roseate terns, and osprey use the Refuge for nesting, brood rearing, feeding and/or resting. Loss of habitat and human disturbance have caused their populations to decline. All receive protection under the law. During the breeding season (April through August), public access to the peninsula is prohibited to protect the nesting and brood rearing habitat of these species. Avian nesting structures, including platforms, exclosures and nest boxes, are used to increase the productivity of these species. The ponds are managed for waterfowl use. Fields are mowed to maintain habitat diversity.

Public Use Activities
Wildlife-oriented activities such as environmental education, nature study, bird watching, hiking and photography are encouraged on the Refuge. A nature trail passes through upland forest, adjacent to wetlands, through a field, and onto a bay beach. The peninsula is 1-3/4 miles long and contains upland trails and a brackish pond. An information kiosk and public restrooms are located at the headquarters area. Fishing from the beach is permitted. Watercraft are not permitted to land on the Refuge.

Wheelchair access is moderately difficult from the parking lot to the beginning of the nature trail. The interpretive kiosk is wheelchair accessible.

From Route 27, north at Exit 9 onto North Sea Road (Route 38) to North Sea/Noyack. Continue onto Noyack Road (Route 38); Refuge is 5 miles on the left.

Address inquiries to Refuge Manager at Wertheim Refuge; Morton Refuge office: (516) 725-2270 (summers only).

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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