Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Feeding, Resting and Nesting on Parker River Beaches

Visit Parker River – Plum Island’s Wildlife Refuge

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, located on Plum Island, a barrier beach island is known as one of the top bird watching destinations in Massachusetts and beyond. Parker River is a nationally recognized Wildlife Refuge for over 300 species of resident and migratory birds and was developed in 1941 to create a safe place for migratory birds to feed, rest and nest. Although this 4,700 acre sanctuary is a very popular spot for sightseeing, the Refuge is operated by the US Fish & Wildlife Services ensuring that this picturesque place is carefully maintained.

In addition to waterfowl, the many habitats at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge make it a popular Newburyport attraction for sighting mammals, insects, fish, reptiles and amphibians. It’s no wonder the 3,000 acre Salt Marsh habitat is deemed, “One of the most productive ecosystems in nature.”

The Parker River National Wildlife Refuge features several boardwalks that lead to refuge beaches and a boat launch area for kayaks and canoes located across from parking lot 1. Visitors have access to a number of viewing trails including: the Hellcat Boardwalk Trail, Stage Island Trail and Pines Trail. There are also two very popular observation towers perfect for bird watching and taking pictures.

VIP guests at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge include the Piping Plovers. Federally protected by the Wildlife Conservation, the Piping Plovers enjoy summer vacation on a secluded section of Plum Island Beach from April 1st to late summer. Although Refuge beach closures may disappoint some visitors, breeding pairs have increased and the Refuge is home to the 2nd largest Plover population on the North Shore. Plum Island Beach is 11 miles long offering other beach options both on and off the Refuge.

Sandy Point Beach is a very highly regarded picturesque beach destination that stays open while other Refuge beaches are closed. Sandy Point State Reservation encompasses 77 miles of land and is run by the State of Massachusetts. To access Sandy Point Beach by car, you must enter through the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge gate house and drive to the far southern tip of Plum Island.

More habitats include Cranberry Bog and Freshwater Marsh, which make Parker River sound like a Wildlife Resort & Spa in addition to a National Refuge. Parker River also offers passes and permits for those who enjoy various recreational activities such as surf fishing and hunting.

If you enjoy bird watching and crave the outdoors a visit to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is a must!  To start your adventure, join the Parker River Wildlife Refuge free educational programs held at the Visitor Center in Newburyport, MA.



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