The History of Petty Island In Pennsauken Township, NJ

By Evan Levow
 on 0101/3131/18181818
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bridge from philadelphia to new jersey

Located in the Delaware River, Petty Island is a 292-acre island forming the border between Philadelphia and Camden which forms the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It's the fourth-largest island in the Delaware River and is rich with history. The Island also features a nature preserve of various wildlife and their habitats. Our New Jersey DWI lawyers love to visit Petty Island for a quick nature getaway when we need an escape from city life.


Petty Island was originally named Shackamaxon Island after a nearby Shackamaxon Village called Lenni Lenape. This name was changed to Aquikanasara by Swedish explorer Peter Lindestrom in 1654 and renamed again to Treaty Island after Penn Treaty in 1852. The island has changed ownership several more times over the years. It functioned as a popular destination for gambling and dueling during the 1800s and 1700s, and during this period developed a reputation for lawlessness and danger. Several shipwrecks also happened at the Island, which further added to this dangerous reputation.

The Philadelphia Bicentennial Planning Committee began plans for a World's Fair type of event to celebrate the nation's bicentennial in 1976, but these plans never materialized. Today, the Island is uninhabited, but during the 2000s, local lawmakers have turned Petty Island into a hot location for waterfront development and environmental preservation.


With its location in such an industrial area, you might not expect Petty Island to be a good habitat for wildlife. But you can find a variety of local species here, and with the plans to conserve the island, you can expect this habitat to grow in the future.

Some of the wildlife found on Petty Island includes:

  • Two American bald eagles
  • Hawks
  • Falcons
  • Osprey
  • Northern harrier
  • Cooper's hawk
  • Red-shouldered hawk
  • American kestrel
  • Peregrine falcon
  • American black duck
  • Savannah sparrow

Natural Features

During a visit to Petty Island, you can also find some rare and beautiful vegetation and other natural features. Some of the natural elements present on the island include:

  • Awl-leaf arrowhead
  • American waterwort
  • Bouquet mud-plantain
  • Water Marigold

The Future Of Petty Island

The Island is currently under the ownership of Citgo, a Venezuela-based oil company. The company has agreed to give the island to the New Jersey Natural Lands Trust, and also to contribute $3 million to the renovations. There are currently expansive plans for transforming the island into a full nature reserve. According to CBS Philadelphia, the park could one day be the city's version of New York's Central Park.

The Crowley Marine Terminal is currently operating out of the island but will be moving out after their current projects are finished. Citgo will then clean up the area under a consent order with the Department of Environmental Protection. Once the DEP finds that the area is clean, the island will be given to the trust and become an urban nature preserve. This process is expected to be completed by 2021.

The bridge that currently connects the island to Petty's Island will be used for shuttling visitors to Petty's Island once it's completed and opened.

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Evan Levow - instructor of field sobrietyState V. Chun Button
(877) 735-2288
Evan Levow
Date Published: January 31, 2018
Evan Levow is the managing partner of Levow DWI Law, P.C., which is a Tier 1 DUI/DWI Best Law Firm. Evan Levow has argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on landmark DWI breath testing cases such as State vs. Chun. He is also the President Emeritus of the 600 member DUI Defense Lawyers Association.
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