Marine Park and the Salt Marsh Nature Center
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Avenue U and East 33rd Street, Brooklyn, NY
Hours:Nature Center: 11 a.m. to 5 P.M. daily; grounds and nature trail: dawn to dusk daily
Fee: Free
Contact:; 718-421-2021

Bathrooms: Salt Marsh Nature Center
Water/Snacks: Water fountain in Nature Center

USGS Coney Island

Marine Park, a bird-watcher’s paradise, offers visitors the opportunity to see a rare and fragile ecosystem preserved right in New York City.

Marine Park and the Salt Marsh Nature Center
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The Salt Marsh is located in Marine Park, which, at 798 acres of marsh and grassland, is the largest park in Brooklyn. Here you can hike through a rare and fragile ecosystem that was only recently reclaimed after decades of environmental degradation.

Fed by Gerritsen Creek, which runs into Jamaica Bay, the marsh served as Lenape fishing grounds for centuries before being occupied by Dutch settlers in the seventeenth century. In the center of the marsh lie the remains of a tidewater gristmill, which was the first tide-powered mill built in North America. The mill operated for close to 100 years, supplying flour to the neighboring towns of Flatbush, Flatlands, and Gravesend. It also supplied flour for George Washington’s troops during the American Revolution. In 1935, the mill burned to the ground, and following that, the area became an illegal dumping ground for decades.

Today it is the definition of land rejuvenated. More than 350 species of birds—among them, loons and Canada geese in winter, and herons and egrets in summer—as well as 100 species of butterflies can be spotted in the area. The waters are also home to about 100 species of fish, in addition to crabs, eels, and turtles.

Visitors can begin their 1-mile tour of the Salt Marsh at the Nature Center, where displays describe the history of the preservation effort, and you can view dioramas and exhibits of the marsh’s flora and fauna. Exit the center to the back and turn right. Walking along gravel paths and crossing the occasional bridge, you will pass the gristmill remains, which are partially submerged in Gerritsen Creek. At a T intersection, go right to stop at a viewing platform, and then continue following the path around to return to the intersection and then back to the Nature Center. Be sure to bring your binoculars. Remember: Though strollers are fine for the paved pathways running around the outer rim of the Salt Marsh, they cannot be used on the trail past the Nature Center.

Plan B:

If you are traveling by car, Floyd Bennett Field (Trips 38 and 39), part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, provides another window on nature’s reclamation of former industrial sites.


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