Wild nature at your doorstep: Marine Park Nature Trail provides easy getaway just a few minutes from home

You could be forgiven for thinking you’re not in Brooklyn.

A true respite from the noise and bustle common across many other parts of the borough, the Marine Park Nature Trail, which winds near the salt marsh almost out of view of the built parts of Brooklyn, opens up vistas of a very different place – one in which pheasants nest, herons swoop and swans paddle serenely through the peaceful backwater, beginning just south of Avenue U near East 36th Street.

This map shows the trail that walkers can follow. Map courtesy of NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

Each season brings its delights – the golds and grays of fall and winter are no less dramatic than the springtime wildflowers in a spectrum of colors emerging from the scrubby growth, all visible from the easy-to-navigate trail that winds for about a mile across gently rolling terrain.

A swan near the shoreline.

The start of the trail, which hugs the water’s edge, is a prime viewing area for the denizens of the salt marsh. On a recent walk, I saw both swans and herons, as well as turtles, as I paused on the metal bridge very near the entrance to enjoy the view of both the marsh’s inhabitants and the brackish water scenery punctuated by pilings.

Across the water to the west can be seen a couple of apartment buildings and some small houses, but they are distant enough that they do not detract from the view.

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Further along, a platform jutting out into the water provides an unimpeded view of the wetlands, and additional walking trails across the salt marsh. Continuing along on the shore, there’s another vantage point that provides a clear view of a platform where a pair of ospreys have nested for several years.

On my various visits, I’ve taken different turnings and enjoyed them all. Most recently, I headed over the rise at the center of the trail area, past some bleached white stones and got a 360° view over a breathtaking expanse that was both empty and full at once – there was one other person nearby, stretched out on one of the boulders, but the waving grasses and skittering clouds captured my attention as I strolled.

The waters near the entrance to the trail are overgrown with plant life.

In the more wooded area, off in the distance, I saw a ring neck pheasant, which a park ranger subsequently told me was part of a family nesting there. I found myself walking, then pausing, gazing deeply into the brush and watching the birds as they posed in phalanxes upon spreading tree branches then suddenly flew off.

Throughout the year, different birds can be spotted, according to the city’s Audubon Society, which says that spring brings various migratory flyers such as orioles and cuckoos, summer a true bounty of birds from ospreys to warblers to terns, autumn another round of travelers including raptors and songbirds, and winter ducks and loons, as well as songbirds that do not head south.

They’re just one aspect of the life that abounds in this treasured expanse of wetlands, 530 acres in total, which has been designated a Forever Wild preserve to protect it. While it’s currently closed for renovation, the adjacent Salt Marsh Nature Center, which the city’s Parks Department opened in 2000, provides an augmented experience for visitors.

For more information, go to https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marine-park/facilities/hikingtrails.

The salt marsh lit by the setting March sun.
The salt marsh lit by the setting March sun.
The salt marsh is a fertile expanse of native plants.
The salt marsh lit by the setting March sun.
A view out over the salt marsh.
The trail traverses the center of the grasslands.
White boulders punctuate the interior of the trail area.

This article was originally published on brooklyneagle.com

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