New Jersey Butterfly Club

A chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

Duke Farms

by Keith Richmond

County: Somerset.

Municipality: Hillsborough Township.

Directions: From the north, take Interstate 287 – from the east or west, take US 22 to the Bridgewater / Somerville area. Exit onto US 206/202 south. At the Somerville “circle” where 202 and 206 split, continue south on US 206 for 2.2 miles to Dukes Parkway West. At this light, turn right and in 0.6 miles turn left into the parking lot at the Orientation Center. From the south, take US 206 north. When you enter Hillsborough, take the 206 bypass (which branches off to the right) to avoid some of the congestion in the commercial section of Hillsborough. In a few miles you will see Days Inn on your left and Bountiful Gardens nursery on your right. In approximately 3/4 mile from here you will come to Duke's Parkway West - proceed through the light, take the jughandle and proceed as above.

Parking: Yes. There is a large lot for several hundred cars at the visitor Orientation Center. Be aware that this a very popular area, particularly on weekends. When all the parking spaces are occupied, the parking areas will be temporarily closed in order to prevent overcrowding.

Nearest sizable town: Restaurants, gas, etc. can readily be found in the surrounding towns of Hillsborough, Raritan, and Somerville. A small café in the visitor center offers a selection of sandwiches, salads, snacks and beverages for lunch.

Habitats: Duke Farms, the 2,742 acre former estate of the late tobacco heiress Doris Duke, is now privately owned by the Duke Farms Foundation whose mission is "to serve as a model of environmental stewardship and inspire visitors to become informed stewards of the land." Over 1,000 acres at the core of the property are open to the public. The property contains a mix of woodlands, restored meadows, lakes and wetlands.

Maintained/Marked trails: Yes. 12 miles of bicycle trails and 18 miles of easy to moderate walking trails exist. Check out this map of the trail system or pick up one at the Orientation Center.

Restrooms: Yes. Bathrooms are found in the lobby of the Orientation Center immediately upon entry into the building and at the rear of the Orchid Greenhouse and the Coach Barn. Several composting toilets can also be found at various spots throughout the property.

Picnic tables: Picnic tables are found at the site of the former residence building on Arboretum Way (2) and in front of the Orchid Range/Greenhouse (2). There is also a group of outdoor tables and chairs associated with the Farm Barn Cafe at the rear of the Orientation Center. Note that campfires, grills and alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Duke Farms also has a carry-in carry-out trash policy.

Notable species: Sleepy Orange, Cloudless Sulphur, Spicebush Swallowtail, American Copper, Red-banded Hairstreak, Variegated Fritillary, Meadow Fritillary, Appalachian Brown, Common Checkered-Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper and Crossline Skipper.

Best time to visit: Anytime mid-April through October; however, the greatest variety of butterflies is present from midsummer on. As of this writing, Duke Farms is open 5 days a week from 8:30am to 6:00pm (closed Sunday and Monday). From November through March closing time is 4:30pm. Because of heavy weekend crowds a free entry pass is required on all Saturdays while summer hours are in effect (April to October). Please check the Duke Farms website for the most current information or to reserve a Saturday entry pass.

Exploring Duke Farms: Your first stop should be the Orientation Center where you may obtain an excellent map of the property. Staff is available there to answer questions. To reach the most productive areas, take the path past the Tram Stop (no longer in operation), cross Dukes Parkway, and enter at the South Gate Entrance. Any of the many meadows here are worth exploring with perhaps the best being the Hay Barn, Oak, Orchid Range, and Great Meadows.

Special precautions: Ticks can be a problem here, even for those who stick to the trails.

You might also want to visit: Sourland Mountain Preserve.

Further information about Duke Farms is available.

To view a larger map, click on 'View larger map' icon in upper right hand corner. (Tip: The satellite view may also suggest good potential butterfly habitat to explore.)

Orientation Center

Orientation Center.

Orchid Greenhouse

Orchid Greenhouse.

Coach Barn

Coach Barn.

Great Meadow

Great Meadow.