John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Pennsylvania’s largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh

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Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia
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With 1000 acres, ten miles of trails and many native wildlife and plants, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum protects the largest freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania.

The marsh, a key stop in the Atlantic flyway, is well-known among birdwatchers — 80 species nest here and 300 have been recorded.

But sporting enthusiasts like it too; there’s a canoe ramp, it’s open from sunrise to sunset so anglers are happy, and the network of low-lying trails attracts joggers as well as walkers.

The Friends of Heinz Wildlife Refuge work on trails, assist with educational projects, and raise funds either in the nature store (Tinicum Treasures) or through grants to implement projects that the Refuge’s budget will not cover.


The Experience

Framed by the Philadelphia skyline, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum spans 1,200 acres and serves as a refuge for rare plants, resident and migratory birds, and earthbound animals including foxes and deer. The marsh is home to the coastal leopard frog, an endangered species in Pennsylvania.

After a visit to the Cusano Environmental Education Center, set out on foot or by bicycle on one of the 10 miles of trails that pass through various habitats.

The marsh, a key stop in the Atlantic flyway, is well-known among birdwatchers — 80 species nest here.

Keep the binoculars handy to look for the endangered red-bellied turtle and southern leopard frogs that keep safe in the heavily vegetated wetlands. Walk the boardwalk and stop at the observation blinds to spot some of the 280 species of ducks, herons and other birds that have been seen here.

Or bring a canoe to explore a stretch of Darby Creek and maybe do a little fishing.

Children enjoy spotting the turtles and frogs, state endangered animals, that abound here. They might also get lucky and spot the pair of bald eagles that visit regularly.

The History

Once a huge tidal wetland, diked and drained by early Swedish, Dutch and English farmers, the former Tinicum Marsh shrank to 200 acres during post-World War I urbanization.

In 1955, Gulf Oil donated a non-tidal tract that became the nucleus of a wildlife preserve that opened in 1972, after surviving threats of extinction from I-95 construction and a sanitary landfill.

Events & More

The Cradle of Birding Wildlife and Conservation Festival, featuring wildlife exhibitors, speakers, tours and food, is held every September. Darby Creek Cleanup, a conservation project held to celebrate earth day, is held every April.


Hotel Deal

Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package

Book the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package for stays through June 15, 2018 and get FREE hotel parking as well as a $25 We ♥ 13th Street restaurants gift card, a $25 CHeU Noodle restaurants gift card, a $25 gift card to R2L, a free cheesesteak from Campo's and a $10 Lyft credit.

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