Caven Point, Liberty State Park

The Caven Point Natural Area is a 15-acre wildlife preserve (with 6 acres of water) on the Jersey City waterfront just south of Liberty State Park. It is a varied habitat consisting of upland meadow, saltwater marsh, maritime forest, tidal pools, tidal mudflats, and the longest natural beach in Upper New York Harbor and the Hudson River. It is one of the last undisturbed natural estuaries in the New York City area.

Caven Point Natural Area map

After centuries of occupation by Native Americans, Caven Point was settled by Dutch immigrants in the first half of the 17th century. The area remained a quiet outpost until the middle of the 19th century when a canal and railroads were established. Much of the original marsh north of the point was filled in to become a vast rail yard. Heavy industry followed shortly after with the opening of a large oil refinery just west of the Caven Point shoreline. The 20th century and the beginning of the First World War brought a large US Army depot to the Point.

By the 1960s, the industries and railroads were in steep decline. Many businesses shut down or moved away, leaving behind empty lots, vacant buildings, and a toxic legacy. The US Army scaled back its operations, leaving a small Army Reserve post that is still there today. The pollution left behind included heavy metals, oil and other hydrocarbons, asbestos, PCBs, and more. An effort to reclaim the land for the people led to the creation of Liberty State Park in 1976 on the grounds the rail yard once occupied. The area that became the Caven Point Natural Area was purchased by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection two years later, using Green Acres funds. Planning soon began for a large housing complex on the site of the old Army depot. Together with scientists and state officials, the developers of what would become Port Liberté worked to rehabilitate the area, clean the contaminated soils, and establish the Caven Point Natural Area as a wildlife habitat.

There is currently a proposal to expand the private Liberty National Golf Club onto Caven Point. This very special place would, simply put, be destroyed. Many groups oppose the plan, including Friends of Liberty State Park, New Jersey Audubon, Hudson County Sierra Club, and NY/NJ Baykeeper. The New Jersey DEP is responsible for leasing the land; please contact officeofleases@dep.nj.gov to urge that the plan be rejected.

 

Caven Point is home to many species of birds and wildlife, and provides an important stopover during migration. Some examples of frequently seen species include:

Diamondback Terrapin
Harbor Seal
Horseshoe Crab
American Oystercatcher
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Black Skimmer
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Belted Kingfisher
Spotted Sandpiper
Dunlin
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Eastern Kingbird
Marsh Wren
House Wren
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
American Tree Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
Green-winged Teal
Gadwall
Mallard
American Black Duck
Ring-necked Duck
Ruddy Duck
Horned Grebe
Greater Scaup
Common Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Snow Goose
Brant
Canada Goose
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Common Tern
American Redstart
Eastern Towhee
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Greater Yellowlegs
Short-billed Dowitcher
Common Raven
American Crow
Common Nighthawk
Killdeer
Black-bellied Plover
Veery
Swainson’s Thrush
Wood Thrush

In addition, many rarer species have spent time or been sighted at Caven Point, including:

Snowy Owl
Great Horned Owl
Long-eared Owl
Surf Scoter
Clapper Rail
Swainson’s Hawk
Northern Goshawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Ruddy Turnstone

The area is important for beach nesting birds, also. From April through September, beach access is closed except to scheduled visits (the boardwalk that connects Liberty State Park with Port Liberté is open year-round). This allows birds to have a chance to nest undisturbed. Spotted Sandpiper is a yearly beach nester and in 2016 a pair of American Oystercatchers successfully nested–a first for Hudson County. Many songbirds also nest at Caven Point, including Tree Swallow, House Wren, Marsh Wren, American Robin, and Eastern Kingbird. Other species nest nearby (or have unknown nesting locations) and juvenile birds show up yearly at Caven Point ahead of their first migration–including Black- and Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Great Blue Heron, Cooper’s Hawk, and Common Tern.

Endangered and Threatened Species at Caven Point

The following species that are seen at Caven Point are considered endangered, threatened, or of special concern in New Jersey. More are at-risk as breeding birds, which means maintaining suitable nesting locations is crucial (those that are of breeding concern are noted below; others are endangered/threatened/of special concern as both resident and breeding birds).

Endangered

Peregrine Falcon
Red-shouldered Hawk
Northern Harrier (breeding)
Black Skimmer

Threatened

Black-crowned Night Heron (breeding)
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
American Kestrel

Special Concern

American Oystercatcher
Brown Thrasher (breeding)
Common Tern (breeding)
Cooper’s Hawk (breeding)
Great Blue Heron (breeding)
Snowy Egret (breeding)
Spotted Sandpiper (breeding)

A more comprehensive list of New Jersey’s endangered and threatened species can be found on the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey’s site:

Conservation Status Overview