The Refuge received its current name in 1991, soon after the late Pennsylvania Senator H. John Heinz III was killed in a plane crash in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania. The Refuge includes the largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh in Pennsylvania, as well as other habitats which are home to a variety of plants, trees and animals native to southeastern Pennsylvania.
The “Impoundment Pond Area” of the Refuge is the area near the main entrance. The “Impoundment Pond” is a diked, non-tidal area of 145 acres (0.6 km2), adjacent to the tidal Darby Creek (runs along the opposite side of the dike), to the eastern end of the tidal Tinicum marsh. Originally created as a water source in case of emergencies by the Gulf Oil Corporation, it was donated to the City of Philadelphia in 1955. There are two boardwalks over parts of the “Impoundment Pond.”
The “Marsh Restoration Area” of the Refuge is comprised mostly of the tidal marsh, the preservation of which is the major reason the Refuge was created, and comprises about 75% of the total Refuge acreage of about 1,200 acres (4.9 km2). There is a new boardwalk which goes out into the “Marsh Restoration Area” from the dike road at the end of the “Impoundment Pond Area,” finished in November, 2015.
Each of the Refuge's two areas have varied habitats of woodlands, meadows, and fields. The “Impoundment Pond Area” has some tidal marsh areas on its periphery.
The tidal areas of Darby Creek and the Tinicum marsh typically have tidal changes from 5–7 feet (1.5–2.1m) twice daily.
There are more than 10 miles of trails in the Refuge. Due to the fragile nature of the habitat in the Refuge, “off-trail,” visitors are required to stay on the trails in the Refuge at all times, which means that much of the Refuge is unreachable by visitors and forms a safe haven for animals.
There are a number oil and natural gas pipelines running through the Refuge underground, and under the “Impoundment Pond.” They are well maintained by the companies operating them.
The main entrance to the Heinz Refuge, at 8601 Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is at the intersection of 86th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard in southwest Philadelphia. The entrance leads to a series of paved parking areas. From the parking areas, the Refuge's visitor center can be quickly reached by walking under the archway along the paved path.
There are lavatories in the visitor center and porta-potties at three locations along the trails in the Refuge's “Impoundment Pond Area” on which visitors walk from the visitor center.
SEPTA's Route 37 and 108 buses both stop at 84th St. and Lindbergh Blvd, a two block walk to the Refuge's entrance.
SEPTA's Regional Rail Line has a stop at the Eastwick Station. This is several blocks southeast of the Refuge's main entrance. It's just two stops from Amtrak's 30th Street Station, on the Airport Line toward the airport.
Pennsylvania Route 420 Entrance:
The secondary entrance to the Heinz Refuge is on PA Route 420 North, a short distance from I-95. There is a small parking lot at the entrance. To set your GPS to get directions to the PA Route 420 entrance enter the address 643 Wanamaker Avenue, Norwood, PA 19074, or better yet the following Latitude 39.873726 and Longitude -75.302755 or 39°52'25.4"N and 75°18'09.9"W.
To drive to the PA Route 420 entrance from I-95, take the PA Route 420 North exit. The entrance to the entrance will be on the right, approximately 0.25 miles from I-95 South, or 0.5 miles including the exit corkscrew from I-95 North. From the intersection of Route 13, and PA Route 420 going south on PA Route 420, the entrance is 0.7 miles, but you will have to continue on to get to the entrance on the other side of the road by going to the entrance of I-95 North, then staying to the right go under PA Route 420, then take the PA Route 420 North exit.
Please see a map of the PA Route 420 entrance area below.
There are no lavatories or porta-potties at the PA Route 420 entrance to the Refuge, nor any porta-potties in the “Marsh Restoration Area” in which visitors walk from this entrance of the Refuge.