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The Dismal Swamp

By Linda Tancs

Legend has it that New Jersey’s Dismal Swamp got its name from nearby Dismal Brook. That may be true, but don’t let the dreary name deceive you. It’s actually a wildlife preserve spanning parts of suburban Edison, Metuchen and South Plainfield, one of the last remaining wetlands in a highly urbanized environment. Designated a “priority wetland” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it also features upland deciduous forests with mature trees and more than 165 bird species like green herons, yellow-billed cuckoos, eastern phoebes and songbirds. That’s far from dismal, which is why the name of the preserve was recently changed to the Peter J. Barnes III Wildlife Preserve. It’s been renamed to honor an elected official who helped form the Dismal Swamp Preservation Commission to save the wetlands.


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