Edward J. and Dorothy C. Kempf Preserve at Wading River

Location: Wading River, NY

Size: 104 acres

Date of hike: May 3, 2015

The old saying "Good things come to those who wait" definitely applies to Wading River Marsh, also known as the Edward J. and Dorothy C. Kempf Preserve at Wading River.  I tried to visit it twice earlier this year, but the heavy volume of snow we received this winter prevented me from parking.  The access area is big enough for two cars, maybe three if you park strategically.  Both times I visited though, it wasn't plowed forcing me to find a substitute preserve since there's no room to park along the winding Sound Road.  But now, with spring upon us and the sun brightly shining, it was the perfect time to visit this marsh.

First and foremost, I researched the preserve's history and habitats prior to hitting the trails.  Apparently, the land is enclosed in a semicircle of wooded hills that reaches nearly 200 feet high and features one of the rare salt marshes on the 53-mile stretch between Port Jefferson and Orient Point, according to the Nature Conservancy's website.  In 1968, the conservancy moved to protect the region, with a woman named Dorothy C. Kempf then donating 75 acres between 1971 and 1980 and most of the remaining acreage donated by 12 other residents.  Native Americans once harvested quahogs and periwinkles in the marsh, with archeological digs having found evidence of hunting and shellfishing by the Indians as early as 3,500 B.C.  Interestingly, the "Wading River" hamlet name came from the Indian word "Pauquaconsuk," which means "the river where we wade for thick, round-shelled clams," the website said.

Armed with that knowledge and some time to kill before my dad's birthday lunch in nearby Mount Sinai, I drove over at 10:30 a.m.  I quickly encountered a "West Loop & East Loop" sign with green arrows pointing in opposite directions.  Following my instincts, I went right.  Within seconds, I found myself in a remarkable wetland.  Knowing I had a few hours at my disposal, I chose to walk slowly.  My research told me what to expect: the east trail loops through a mostly hardwood forest containing panoramic views of a greater marsh complex, while the west trail features a brackish pond and a coniferous forest filled with chickadees and titmice.  My first stop was the hardwood forest, where a muddy opening in the spike grass offered a super view of the marsh and some distant homes.  Panoramic, indeed!
The east loop trail also had a few surprisingly brazen deer who tiptoed within 15 yards of me before scurrying away.  Overall, I'd say I encountered about a half dozen deer in the preserve over the two-hour span.  The Nature Conservancy website says the preserve is also home to shellfish, crabs, snails, fish, and even osprey that will occasionally dive to feed on large fish.  In addition, approximately 100 different species of birds have been identified in the preserve, according to the website.  After completing the east loop, I explored the shorter west loop.  That trail had a few boardwalk sections as well as a boulder engraved with Kempf names 
To help set the mood, I retrieved my iPod and selected Voyager's 2014 album V.  Voyager is an Australian progressive metal band slated to appear later this year at the ProgPower USA Festival XVI in Atlanta, which I'm planning to attend.  I wanted to better acquaint myself with their music before then, so I've been checking them out recently.  It's safe to say this album scratches me right where I itch for prog with its heavy riffs and atmospheric keyboard parts.
Looking back, I'd definitely recommend the preserve to hikers who live in neighboring towns.  For me, Kempf Preserve has a little bit of everything in a small and manageable package – and I certainly plan to hike it again the next time I visit my parents.  The sooner, the better. 

Video: Kempf Preserve at Wading River (360-degree view)   

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