1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Bird Watching and Hiking in Jamaica Bay, Queens


algae pond

Pond on an Island in Jamaica Bay

Photo (c) John Roleke
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreation Area, is one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the northeastern United States (over 9,000 acres).

Jamaica Bay is the best place in New York City to observe seasonal migration of birds. The Bay's islands and their ponds are a key layover spot for birds along the Atlantic Flyway. During the spring and late summer, it's possible to see over a hundred types of birds, including the wonderfully named Lesser Yellowlegs.

Birding in Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge attracts almost as many photographers as it does birds. A small shelter, or blind, overlooks one pond and is a great spot for surreptitious photography.

The Piping Plover, an endangered species, visits Jamaica Bay. Please keep to the marked trails in order to avoid disturbing the nests of these and other birds (as well as bird photographers).

Hikiing in Jamaica Bay

  • Trail Length: 1 and 1/2 miles
  • Time: 45 minutes or less
  • Wear: Long sleeves, pants, boots
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is a good afternoon or morning escape from Queens, though you never do escape the airplanes circling nearby JFK airport.

A trail loops from the Visitors Center through fairly open terrain with lots of low-lying vegetation, including a real surprise: a prickly pear cactus that thrives in the islands of Jamaica Bay.

The trail continues through marshy areas of thick, tall grasses and trees. The hike is easy and not long, though you should bring plenty of water and dress properly. I recommend long pants because of the brush and bugs, and sturdy boots because of the mud and wet.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

  • Hours: Open all year from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Location: Cross Bay Boulevard Queens, New York, 718-318-4340
  • Admission: Free
Before hiking you need to check in at the Visitors Center and receive a free hiking permit. There are no entrance or parking fees. The Center has a parking lot, bookstore, and bathroom. There are a few displays on local flora and fauna and bird migration and an excellent history of Jamaica Bay. Contact the Visitors Center for information on tours and special programs.

Directions to Jamaica Bay

By Car: Take the Belt Parkway to exit 17, and go south on Cross Bay Boulevard. Follow Cross Bay Boulevard over North Channel Bridge and continue 1 1/2 miles to the Visitors Center on the right.

By Subway: Take the A train to Broad Channel station. Walk west to Crossbay Boulevard then turn right (north) and walk about half a mile to the Visitors Center.

By Bus: The Q53 and Q21 buses stop at the Visitors Center.

  1. About.com
  2. Travel
  3. Queens, NY
  4. Things To Do
  5. Parks
  6. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge - Visiting and Birding Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.