FAQ Jamaica Bay

How did Jamaica Bay get its name?

Jamaica comes from the Jameco or Yamecah Indians, part of the Canarsie tribe, who inhabited the northern shores of what we know today as Jamaica and Jamaica Bay. English colonists from Massachusetts and eastern Long Island moved to the area in 1656, secured a land patent from the Dutch government, and changed the Township name from the Dutch Rustdorp (rest-town) to one referencing the native inhabitants.

What animals can I observe in and around Jamaica Bay?

Over 330 species of birds have been recorded at the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. Majestic Bald Eagles, tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and beautiful Great Blue Herons, all breed, rest, or feed in the park’s extensive wetlands, woodlands, and shorelines. But the park protects habitat for far more than birds. Many reptiles and amphibians call the park home. In spring, tree frogs such as Spring Peepers and Gray Tree Frogs, breed in shallow pools, while snakes such as the Black Racer, Garter Snake, and Brown Snake hunt the park woodlands. Mammals also prosper here, with evenings the best time to observe raccoons, opossums, and muskrats on their nightly forays. Nearby, dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, and crickets lead their brief lives. Fish are too often overlooked when considering park animals, but Striped Bass, Bluefish, and even seahorses swim the extensive marshlands and open waters of Jamaica Bay.

How deep is Jamaica Bay?

Depending on the tide, Jamaica Bay's depth ranges from just a few inches to over sixty feet, with most of the main channels ranging from 25 to 45 feet deep. The smaller channels in the center of the Bay range from 10 to 20 feet.

Some of the deepest places in the bay are known as Borrow Pits, where bay bottom was excavated to create fill for Kennedy Airport and other developments. Pits at Grassy Bay have been measured at 46 feet, Norton Basin at 51 feet, and Little Bay at 64 feet.

The rest of the bay consists of shallow sandy bottom waters and salt marshes, some of which are exposed at low tide, but covered by several inches to several feet of water at high tide.

Is there camping at Floyd Bennett Field?

There are two campsites, Tamarack and Goldenrod, open to the public by permit. Call the Ryan Visitor Center for more information at (718)338-3799. There is also camping for school groups and non-profit organizations at “Ecology Village.” Schools and non-profit groups must attend a 25 hour training course. For more information contact (718)338-4306.

Where do you go in order to obtain fishing permits?

Fishing permits can be obtained at the Ryan Visitor Center (718)338-3799, as well as at the Fort Tilden Visitor Center (718)318-4300.

Are pets allowed in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge?

Pets are not permitted in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. In addition to pets, bikes are also prohibited as is food on any of the trails.

Who is Fort Tilden named for?

Fort Tilden is named after Samuel J. Tilden, governor of New York State and a Democratic nominee for the Presidency in 1876.

Who is Floyd Bennett?

Warrant Officer Floyd Bennett was a naval aviator and Commander Richard E. Byrd's pilot on the first flight over the North Pole in 1926, for which both were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bennett, a Brooklyn resident, died in 1928 while participating in the rescue of downed transatlantic aviators in Canada.

Did Charles Lindbergh use Floyd Bennett Field during his famous flight to Paris?

While Charles Lindbergh did use Floyd Bennett Field, he took off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island during the first solo flight across the Atlantic. However, other famous aviators have used the airfield for record-breaking flights, including Wiley Post, Douglas "Wrong-Way" Corrigan and Howard Hughes, among others.

Who was Jacob Riis?

Jacob Riis was a famous reporter and social reformer at the turn of the twentieth century, who sought to reform schools and improve life in urban slums. He was also a strong supporter of parks to improve public health. He was close friends with Theodore Roosevelt who as President helped to achieve many of the reforms he championed.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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