Dismal Swamp Preserve is a 158-acre swamp in West Milford, New Jersey. It is a popular hiking spot for local residents and campers.
In 1854, the land was acquired by John Smith from the Monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey as part of a property trade with lands located around Lake Hopatcong in Mount Arlington, New Jersey. The name of the swamp comes from the 17th-century English explorer, Anthony Knivet. He inadvertently became lost in the swamp and was unable to find his way out for three days.
From 1860 to 1864, Smith built a hunting lodge on part of the land that is believed to have served as both a Confederate fortification and hospital during the American Civil War. After Smith’s death, the land changed ownership multiple times before it was acquired by Bergen County for use as a park in 1944.
The marsh borders the nearby towns of West Milford, Green Pond, and Ringwood.
The park is home to a variety of wildlife including muskrats, turtles, deer and an estimated 200 species of birds.
It is part of the New York-New Jersey Highlands of the Reading Prong. The marsh consists primarily of white cedar trees and thick brush, making it nearly impossible to access the interior of the swamp.
Wanaque Reservoir, which provides water for several million residents of northern New Jersey. The area is considered to be an important stopover for migrating birds.
The preserve has flowers such as the pink lady’s slipper and the swamp rose mallow, plants such as buttonbush and leatherwood shrubs, and trees including black gum and sour gum.
Visitors are required to pay a nominal fee for parking during the months of May through October. There is no fee charged from November to April. Visitors can access the trail which leads to the edge of the swamp from several parking lots located throughout the park, including one next to a small pond and another near a limestone embankment.
The preserve is open year-round, seven days a week from 8:00 AM to dusk.
Dismal Swamp is located at the corner of Warwick Turnpike and Dutch Lane Road in West Milford Township, New Jersey. The entrance fee is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children under the age of 12, with all proceeds supporting the Bergen County Parks Department.