The 741-acre Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area is jointly managed by the former Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. It stretches out on both sides of the New Jersey Turnpike Western Spur in Lyndhurst and Kearny. The Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area may be accessed only by boat, via the boat ramps at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus or the Commission’s River Barge Park in Carlstadt.
Portions of the Saw Mill Creek Marsh were diked for agricultural purposes as early as the 1820s. Additional ditching and diking occurred in the 1860. Between 1912 and 1950 this marsh was completely diked and drained for mosquito control. As a result, the marsh was cut off from tidal flows and its biodiversity declined as it was colonized by Phragmites.
In November 1950, a nor’easter destroyed the Saw Mill Creek tidegates and dikes and reopened the marsh to tidal inundation from the Hackensack River. As a result of the increased tidal flow from this “natural restoration” event, Phragmites eventually died off in much of the marsh as native Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) replaced it.
With its tidal flow restored, a greater diversity of wildlife uses this area, including Striped Bass, Fiddler Crab, Diamondback Terrapin, Great Blue Heron, Gadwall, Common Moorhen and American Bittern. Several State-listed endangered species, including the Black Skimmer and Yellow-crowned Night Heron, can be seen here. The NJSEA has been conducting a multi-year study to estimate the population of Diamondback Terrapins in this marsh.