Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Site Description

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


  • Tract 11: 64 acres
  • Tract 11C: 2 acres
  • Tract 11D Lighthouse Road: 92 acres
  • Tract 11D Christmas Tree Lane: 3 acres
  • Tract 18: 2 acres

Ecology and Management

Tract 11D Lighthouse Road Impoundment provides habitat for a variety of birds. Photo Credit: USFWS.

Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is located in southern New Jersey near the confluence of the Delaware and Salem Rivers. It is embedded within the ecologically significant landscape of the Delaware Bay Estuary, a region recognized by both the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and the Ramsar Convention. The refuge was established in 1974 “as property with particular value in carrying out the national migratory bird management program” (Braudis 2011). Five impoundments occur on the refuge. The Tract 11 impoundment was originally constructed as a waterfowl hunting pond and has become the most actively managed impoundment. This unit was part of a 2005-2007 study investigating optimal impoundment management within Regions 3 and 5 of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Green et al. 2007, 2008). The 92-acre Tract 11D Lighthouse Road impoundment, along with the three smaller impoundments, were originally constructed as farm ponds but were later retrofitted with water control structures for use in wildlife management. The impoundments are host to many migrant shorebirds as well as Osprey, Bald Eagle and foraging herons and egrets from the nearby Pea Patch Island nesting colony (Parsons 2002). The impoundments are not readily accessible to birders so few eBird data exist. However, scientific monitoring efforts including the International Shorebird Survey (ISS), New Jersey Audubon’s Citizen Science shorebird counts, and a regional study of heron/egret foraging (Parsons 2002) have been carried out at the impoundments. Water levels were previously lowered for the spring and fall shorebird migrations, but they have not been actively managed since 2007 when fulltime staff were moved to the nearby Cape May National Wildlife Refuge. Water levels are currently (2016) kept high all year.


The two largest impoundments are located at the back side of a large salt marsh which likely confers protection from wave energy. While some erosion (and subsequent repair/stabilization) has taken place over the last twenty years, only one impoundment (Tract 11 Lighthouse Road) has experienced overtopping and that was due to freshwater overflowing the dikes from the inside rather than a saltwater storm surge. No breaches of the dikes have been reported.

Human Value

Supawna NWR hosts about 15,000-20,000 visitors per year. A youth fishing derby and school group activities take place at the impoundments. The nearest towns are Pennsvile (pop. 13,400) and Salem (pop. 5,100).


We are grateful to Heidi Hanlon and Brian Braudis (Cape May and Supawna Meadows NWRs) for providing information used on this page.

Literature Resources

Below is a list of articles describing research occurring at or near the impoundments:
  • Anderson, J. T. 2006. Evaluating competing models for predicting seed mass of Walter’s millet. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34:156-158.
  • Augspurger, T., M. Roberts, C. R. Moore, and C. G. Day. Environmental contaminants investigation of Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: contamination and toxicity of mud creek sediments and heavy metal characterization of the refuge impoundment. Pleasantville, New Jersey: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey Field Office; 1992.
  • Braudis, B. Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Cape May Court House, New Jersey: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service; 2011.
  • 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.
  • Green, A., J. Lyons, M. Runge, W. Kendall, H. Laskowski, S. Lor, and S. Guiteras. Timing of impoundment drawdowns and impact on waterbird, invertebrate, and vegetation communities within managed wetlands, Study manual – Final version field season 2007. Laurel, Maryland: USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; 2007.
  • Green, A. W., W. L. Kendall, H. P. Laskowski, J. E. Lyons, L. Socheata, and M. C. Runge. Draft version of the USFWS R3/R5 Regional Impoundment Study. Washington, D. C.: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 2008.
  • Parsons, K. C. 2002. Integrated management of waterbird habitats at impounded wetlands in Delaware Bay, USA. Waterbirds 25:25-41.