New York City: West Pond Trail
Discover New York City's best birding on this 2-mile loop along bay shores and wetlands at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
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An oasis hidden in vast metropolis, the expansive salt marshes and sandy beaches at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge seem a world away from city life. Terrapin lay eggs along southwestern end of West Pond. Coastal bushes bud with fluorescent pink wildflowers. Thousand of migratory birds flock to nest at the park’s shorelines and uplands. Birders and naturalists are also frequent visitors to the refuge, recording more than 300 species in the past thirty years.
The gentle, two-mile-long West Pond Trail circles a 45-acre brackish pool dotted with bird boxes and observation benches. The gravel path cuts through sunlit shrubbery with occasional bay views to the left. After about 1,000 feet, catch close-up views of lofty osprey nests. Tree swallows with strikingly blue and white coats fly rapidly from branch to branch, feasting on insects in mid-air.
If it’s open, continue west onto the Terrapin Trail to see more shorebirds and turtles. Otherwise, turn north along West Pond. The Pumpkin Patch Channel winds through grassy wetlands to the left of the trail.
After heading south, pass through a shaded woodland area. Spur trails provide access to North and South Gardens, where observation blinds allow hikers to watch warblers and various migratory songbirds. Close the loop at the Visitor Center.
*Editor’s Note: This map contains the route from the Broad Channel subway station to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
-Mapped by MacKenzie Ryan
Mass Transit: From Manhattan: Take the A subway to Broad Channel Station. Walk on Noel Road, then turn R onto Cross Bay Boulevard. The Refuge Visitor Center is three-quarters of a mile down the road on the lefthand side.
- Distance: 4.8
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Obtain a free use permit at the Visitor Center. Walk out the back door to access the trail system directly.
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Bear R out of the Visitor Center then make the first L onto the gravel path.
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Stay straight @ three-way.
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Pass bat box on right side of trail.
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Reach first lookout on left.
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Pass House Wren Box on right.
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Reach Osprey Platform on left. To the right is the Tree Swallow Box.
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Reach West Pond.
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Bear L @ Y-junction, merging onto the Terrapin Trail. It is closed seasonally for nesting.
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Bear L @ second Y-junction. The path is sand here.
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Reach beach full of gulls geese and horseshoe crabs. When finished with scenery, retrace steps to last Y-junction and bear L.
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Reach end of Terrapin Trail. Retrace steps to West Pond Loop and walk north.
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Reach Owl Nest Box.
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Bear R @ Visitor Center sign. On the way back to the building, pass a series of grassy singletracks which provide access to North and South Gardens.
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Continue straight @ four-way.
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Keep straight Y-junction and continue to the Visitor Center to end hike.
West Pond Trail
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Near terrapin nesting grounds
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Pumpkin Patch Channel and Black Bank Marsh
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