Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Barnegat)

Site Description

  • State: New Jersey
  • County: Ocean
  • Ownership: Federal


  • Barnegat #1: 18.9 acres
  • Barnegat #2: 7.06 acres
  • Barnegat #3: 8.11 acres
  • Barnegat #4: 82.06 acres
  • Barnegat #5: 109.79 acres

Ecology and Management

Great egret landing at Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. Photo credit: Rosie Walunas/USFWS.

The Barnegat impoundments are in the central section of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge along Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, New Jersey. They are less visited than the extremely popular Wildlife Drive impoundments to the south (also in Forsythe NWR), but they are popular birding spots nonetheless. For example, Barnes (2009) reports 3,800 Greater Scaup, 230 Northern Shovelers, and 200 Northern Pintail using the impoundments during spring migration. Shorebirds and herons are also plentiful where mudflats and shallow waters occur. The site is included in both the International Shorebird Survey (ISS; Chan and Schulte 2008) and the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) programs. Forsythe NWR as a whole is designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site due to its abundant wetlands and location along the Atlantic Flyway.

The impoundments were originally created as a joint effort of state wildlife and county mosquito control agencies in the late 1960s, and were later acquired by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Forsythe NWR. Due to their distance from headquarters and structural problems associated with their construction, water levels have not been actively managed at this site for some time. Some efforts were made in the 2000s to rehabilitate them in partnership with Ducks Unlimited. However, due to further storm damage, at least two of the five are breached and open to tidal flow, and the other three currently have non-functional water control structures. Forsythe recently performed an engineering assessment of all dams on the refuge including the Barnegat dikes. This, along with a habitat value assessment, resulted in the current plan to transition them from freshwater impoundments back to unmanaged, tidal ecosystems.


Frequent overtopping and structural instability make the Barnegat impoundments extremely vulnerable to sea level rise and storms.

Human Value

The number of visitors to the Barnegat area of Forsythe NWR is unknown, but the refuge as a whole receives well over 250,000 visitors per year. The Barnegat impoundments are a popular birding spot, and are designated an Important Bird Area due to the abundance and diversity of coastal birds using the site. Approximately 3.9 million people live within 100 kilometers of Edwin B. Forsythe NWR.


We are grateful to Paul M. Castelli and Virginia Rettig (Forsythe NWR) and Joseph Schmidt (Ocean County Mosquito Extermination Commission) for providing helpful information used on this page.

Literature Resources

Below is a list of articles describing research occurring at or near the impoundments:
  • Atzert, S. P. Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Hadley, Massachusetts: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 5; 2004.
  • Barnes, S. 2009. Region 3, Waterfowl – Rails. New Jersey Birds 35:103-104.
  • Castelli, P. Hurricane Sandy resilience projects in New Jersey: Edwin B. Forsythe, Cape May and Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuges. Hadley, Massachusetts: Presentation given at the Hurricane Sandy Tidal Marsh Resiliency Coordination Workshop December 8-9, 2014.
  • Cramer, D. Estimating habitat carrying capacity for American black ducks wintering in southern New Jersey. University of Delaware; 2009.
  • Ducks Unlimited. Wetland Restoration on New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast. http://www.ducks.org/new-jersey/new-jersey-projects/wetland-restoration-on-new-jerseys-atlantic-coast 2015:1.
  • Giroux, J., G. Gauthier, G. Costanzo, and A. Reed. 1998. Impact of geese on natural habitats. Pages 32-57 In Batt, B. D. J., editor. The Greater Snow Goose: report of the Arctic Goose Habitat Working Group, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service, Washington, DC and Ontario, Canada.
  • IWMM [Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring Project]. Project Update – October 2010. http://iwmmprogram.ning.com/: Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring Project; 2010.
  • Kerlinger, P. The economic impact of ecotourism on the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge area, New Jersey, 1993-1994. Unpublished Report; 1995.
  • WHSRN [Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network]. 2009. Edwin B. Forsythe NWR. http://www.whsrn.org/site-profile/edwin-b-forsythe-nwr Accessed 2015:1.