Wolf Swamp Preserve, along with the adjacent preserves, Big Woods and Scallop Pond, combine to form one of the largest protected natural areas in the Peconic Bay area. While Big Woods and Scallop Pond include acres of salt marsh, Wolf Swamp holds several valuable freshwater habitats, creating an important suite of disappearing ecosystems that help maintain local water quality.
Located across the street from each other, Big Woods and Wolf Swamp Preserves can be explored on the same day.
Along with the mature forest of oaks, American beech, and white pine for which Big Woods is named, the preserve includes freshwater wetlands and tidal marshlands. Located in the North Sea, Big Woods is part of one of the most extensive salt marsh-tidal creek systems remaining in the Peconic Estuary. The area has long been recognized for its natural beauty and ecological significance, as well as its importance to the water quality of the Great Peconic Bay.
In 1995, because of an ongoing dialogue with the owners of the largest privately-owned property in the area, The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with Southampton Town, acquired the 87 acres comprising the Big Woods Preserve. This acquisition added to the over 300 acres owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Peconic Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy to our nearby Wolf Swamp and Scallop Pond Preserves.
Wolf Swamp’s diverse and beautiful habitats include a red maple and tupelo swamp full of frogs and native azalea, an oak-beech forest with century-old trees and several hundred feet of Big Fresh Pond’s shoreline used by osprey, dragonflies and thousands of wintering waterfowl.
In 1957, Mrs. Elizabeth Morton Tilton donated the 20 acres that form Wolf Swamp Preserve, making it The Nature Conservancy’s first and oldest preserve on Long Island. Together with the adjoining 80-acre Elliston Park owned by the Town of Southampton, one-third of the border of Big Fresh Pond is protected. Water quality and shoreline protection are essential to the tens of thousands of Alewife herring that migrate from the ocean into Big Fresh Pond to breed and spawn each spring.
Indigenous People – Past and Present
As you explore this special site, your experience can be deepened by an understanding of diverse cultures and communities. This land is the ancestral home of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. For millennia, the Shinnecock people lived on the lands that stretch from what we know as Westhampton to East Hampton. They are one of over a dozen unique Indigenous communities that spanned Long Island. These communities shared a desire for peace and were expert whalers and deep-sea fishers.
In the mid-1600s, smallpox introduced by colonists devastated Indigenous Peoples on eastern Long Island, claiming over two-thirds of the population. Indigenous Peoples retain only a fraction of their ancestral lands here. For example, the Unkechaug Indian Nation’s Poospatuck Reservation in present-day Mastic is 40 acres, while the Shinnecock Indian Nation retains 800 acres. Today, many Indigenous Nations are working to regain unceded ancestral lands.
The Shinnecock Indian Nation and many other Indigenous communities are involved with conservation efforts and partnerships that greatly benefit from their millennia of knowledge and stewardship. The Nature Conservancy works in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to support their visions here in New York and worldwide. We aim to learn from their stewardship experiences and amplify their leadership in conserving lands, waters, and ways of life.