Trail Guides
Bulls Island Recreation Area

Route 29, Stockton, NJ
Phone: (609) 397-2949

OWNER:  NJ Department of Environmental Protection

DIRECTIONS:  Exit the parking lot and turn Right on Raven Rock Road. Proceed 0.4 miles and turn Left onto Federal Twist Road. After 0.7 miles, turn Right onto Route 29. The entrance to Bull’s Island is on the Left after 0.6 miles.   Map
ACCESS AND PARKING:  Open daily sunrise to sunset. The park office is open 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. The closing time is 4:00 p.m. the remainder of the year. There is no cost to enter the park, but there is a fee for camping. As part of the Delaware River floodplain, the area has in the past been closed during flood conditions. Be aware of abundant stinging nettle and poison ivy along trails and roadways. Although noxious to humans, the nettle is the larval food source of the Red Admiral Butterfly and the fruit of poison ivy is eaten by birds.

A CLOSER LOOK:  Walk along the mile long Bull’s Island Natural Area trail to reach stands of ostrich fern. In spring, new growth appears as fiddleheads, the unfurled frond of the leaf. Harvested in some areas, but not in protected areas such as this state park, cooked fiddleheads are considered a wild spring delicacy. The stand of ostrich fern reaches its peak of growth in summer, a primordial scene of lush, green vertical crowns. Favoring riverbanks and resistant to floodwaters, dense colonies of this fern result from the plants’ ability to send out stolons to form new crowns of growth. Ostrich fern is a deciduous plant, and the leaves die back in fall, spreading out in a tattered, brown mat.

Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white WarblerMike Anderson
SITE DESCRIPTION:  Bull’s Island, part of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, is bounded by the Delaware River and the canal. This 80-acre forested island provides numerous outdoor opportunities. Well-known as a hotspot for spring migration, the natural area includes two unique forest habitats, the sycamore river birch type and American elm-silver maple type. Take notice of the enormous Tulip Poplars, NJ’s tallest tree, along with massive Sycamore trees that line the trail within the natural area. Several rare plant species thrive here, along with one of the largest stands of ostrich ferns in the area. A pedestrian bridge from the island crosses to the Pennsylvania side of the river and provides open views up and downstream of the middle Delaware. A campground, picnic facilities, playground and launch sites for canoes or kayaks round out the choices for enjoying this area. Begin by picking up information on all the facilities at the office.

DON'T MISS:  In addition to enjoying the ample natural opportunities on the island, take a few minutes to learn some local history. A display in the office recounts the history of building the canal and the impact it had on the region.

Winter:  Bald Eagle is a resident along the Delaware River; however, the population greatly increases this season as wintering residents profit from the abundant wintering waterfowl along the river. Make use of the view the bridge offers to observe waterfowl such as American Black Duck and Common Merganser; a lucky visitor may even see an eagle making a meal of an unlucky duck or goose.
Spring:  Migration is the watchword for this season in the Skylands, and Bull’s Island is a hotspot. Thirty-two species of warbler are on the checklist for spring. Flycatchers, vireos and swallows all add to the northward movement of color and song. Check the river for possible sighting of the smaller and more graceful Bonaparte’s Gull amidst Ring-billed and Herring Gulls.
Summer:  Early morning is the best time to check for wildlife and breeding birds before activity by outdoor enthusiasts picks up for the day. Several warbler species remain at Bull’s Island to nest such as Yellow-throated, Northern Parula and Cerulean Warblers. Check the bridge structure for Cliff Swallow.
Fall:  This is the season of arrivals and departures. The Delaware River guides southbound migrants, such as Northern Harrier, as they pass through the region once again. Make sure to scan the river for additional migrating raptors migrating as well as for the last of the summer herons. First arrivals of wintering waterfowl should begin in October.

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