Refuge Gateway welcomes public for limited day use



U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

News Release 

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
5437 West Jefferson Avenue, Trenton, MI 48183


September 30, 2020

Contact: Susan White, Wildlife Refuge Manager, 808-372-8898,

Refuge Gateway opens for limited access: Help plan a safe and enjoyable visit

Together with Wayne County, we are pleased to open the Refuge Gateway for walking, fishing, birding and other day-use recreation beginning October 1, 2020. While this area is open in a limited capacity for self-guided recreation, we ask for your help to make your visit, and that of others, safe and enjoyable. Please take a moment to learn about access options and how you can help keep the Refuge Gateway a fun and peaceful space for everyone.

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Gateway – a collaborative co-managing partnership between Wayne County Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System - is a restored 44-acre greenspace that connects people with the beautiful Detroit River. Once an industrial brownfield, the Refuge Gateway is now home to native habitats, rolling hills, a 700-foot fishing pier and links to hundreds of miles of Downriver Linked Greenway Trails. It also provides public access to three miles of hiking trails in Humbug Marsh, the last undeveloped mile of forest and marshlands along the river on the U.S. side and a wetland of international importance through the Ramsar Convention. Also on site is the 11,800-square-foot John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center, which remains closed as we finalize construction and due to concerns related to public safety and COVID-19. 

“We are so happy to welcome folks to the Refuge Gateway and Humbug Marsh! It’s been a long time coming and we can’t wait to see you here enjoying your public lands. It took a village and we are indebted to and appreciate the work, support – and patience – of our partners and our community. We’re especially thankful to our partners from Wayne County and the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance for making this special place with beautiful amenities available for everyone to enjoy,” said Wildlife Refuge Manager Susan White.

Beginning October 1, 2020, the Refuge Gateway will be open to the public every Thursday through Sunday, during daylight hours. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy self-guided recreation while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 safety guidelines throughout the site.

“The Detroit River National Wildlife Refuge contributes to a well-balanced quality of life for county residents while providing needed habitat for many of the migratory and native species unique to the Detroit River and the eastern Great Lakes region,” said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. “Wayne County residents have unparalleled access to a diversity of parks and out-of-door activities that provide important recreational and educational opportunities for our residents. Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in an important addition to the cultural and environmental attributes of the Downriver area,” continued County Executive Evans.

Know before you go

This 44-acre Refuge Gateway area and 208 acres on the ‘mainland’ of Humbug Marsh are accessible by the Downriver Linked Trail system. The current trail network includes more than 100 miles of both water and land trails that reach within a half-mile of every home and connects millions of residents to each other across Downriver. We encourage you to use the Elizabeth Park Trail, roughly one mile north of Refuge Gateway, and bike or walk the trail to the refuge. The Refuge Gateway currently has about 120 designated parking spots available, so automobile traffic is limited. If the designated parking is full when you visit, please plan to come another time.

What’s open and what’s closed? This limited opening includes access to the 700-foot fishing pier, portions of Humbug Marsh Orange and Green Trails, Humbug Observation decks, Monguagon Boardwalk, picnic tables, bike trails and a few porta potties. Please note that the visitor center will remain closed and no educational programming is scheduled at this time due to public safety and COVID–19.

Another way that you can learn about the refuge and have fun during your visit to the Refuge Gateway, or at home through a virtual visit, is the new “Agents of Discovery” app. Use your mobile phone to play this game to learn about nature! These virtual and real adventures take place at the Humbug Marsh Nature Trail and at the new fishing pier, but you can also play from home!

Leave no trace

Visiting the Refuge Gateway is a great way to get outdoors and connect with nature. While you may only be planning a short visit, and be here for a few hours, you can still have a big impact on the landscape. Help minimize your impact on the area by following some simple tips.

Please stick to trails or boardwalks for your own safety and to avoid damaging non-durable vegetation or disrupting native prairie-planting restoration. Try not to cut corners or take shortcuts, as these areas can be hot spots for impacts and can cause erosion.

Pack it in, pack it out. Help us keep the Refuge Gateway clean and beautiful by bringing any trash or other items home with you.

Going fishing? Please dispose of old fishing line in the handy fishing line receptacles that were constructed by the Scouts BSA. The old line will be recycled.

While gulls, squirrels, geese and other animals commonly found in the area can seem docile, remember that they are still wildlife and should be treated as such. Never feed or approach them, or any other animals. This helps keep both them and you safe.

Be COVID aware

We urge you to do your part when visiting the Refuge Gateway and the rest of Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge by following CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This includes:

Wearing a mask over your mouth and nose.

Maintaining a safe distance of at least six feet between yourself and others

Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available

Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze

Staying home if you feel sick

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is part of a nationally recognized cohort of 14 priority urban refuges. Located along the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge extends from southwest Detroit to the Ohio border and has six million people within a 45-minute drive. Since it was established almost 20 years ago, the refuge has become a national leader in using public-private partnerships to make nature part of everyday urban life. The refuge was established in 2001 as a result of binational efforts from politicians, conservation leaders and local communities to build a sustainable future for the Detroit River and western Lake Erie ecosystems. The Refuge Gateway site is a collaborative partnership that is co-owned and co-managed by Wayne County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Thank you for helping to keep the Refuge Gateway beautiful, safe and enjoyable! Please stay tuned as our staff continue to collaborate with community partners to continue improving the site and connecting the Downriver community to nature. Nature is for Everyone! We welcome you to share in creating the next generation of outdoor stewards at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Learn more about the Agents of Discovery app and plan your adventure mission.

Learn more about how to access the Refuge Gateway.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit