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About this Tour
Petty’s Island has seen hundreds of years of Lenni Lenape Native American life, Dutch, Swedish, and English traders beginning in 1624, Quaker settlers beginning in 1677, slavery, massive ship building, inventions, and some of the world’s most influential thinkers. It witnessed key events that shaped American history, and still affect our lives today.
Before the island became an oil storage site in 1916, John Morrison wrote that Petty’s was “saturated with the romance of the river, the sea and forest.” His book, The Romance of Petty’s Island, observed that while the island had always been viewed as part of greater Philadelphia, it was geographically separated from the city by water, and therefore fairly inaccessible.
The uses of the island have evolved from hunting, fishing, and gathering, to agriculture and shipbuilding, and then to oil storage, transportation and refining. On your tour, you will see where dredging to improve Philadelphia’s ports removed almost half of the island’s western shores, even as it raised the island’s elevations and created new land on its eastern shores.
The island’s former industries have now run their economic course, and the current owner, CITGO Petroleum, has brought the island’s history full circle back to its natural state.
The New Jersey Natural Lands Trust agreed in 2009 to accept this island as a wildlife preserve. The Trust’s mission is to preserve land in its natural state for enjoyment by the public, and to protect natural diversity by acquiring open space, primarily by donations of land and easements. The Trust invites passive public use of its land for recreation or education, and is currently responsible for over 30,000 acres of open space.