About the Refuge

Scenic_View_Brancheau Unit In Fall Colors_Photo credit_Mike_Grosso

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is located along the lower Detroit River and western shoreline of Lake Erie, just 20 miles south of Detroit and 50 miles north of Toledo, Ohio. Situated in a major metropolitan area, the refuge’s location is truly unique.

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was established in 2001 as a result of bi-national efforts from politicians, conservation leaders, and local communities to build a sustainable future for the Detroit River and western Lake Erie ecosystems. Because of this collaboration, international status was given to the refuge — making it the first of its kind in North America. The refuge consists of nearly 6,000 acres of unique habitat, including islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands within an authorized boundary extending along 48 miles of shoreline.  

In 2004, the Detroit River Refuge acquired Humbug Marsh, a 405–acre unit situated in Trenton and Gibraltar, Michigan. The parcel represents the last mile of undeveloped shoreline along the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River and contains critical habitat for many rare fish and wildlife species.  The site was designated as Michigan’s only “Wetland of International Importance” by the 1971 Ramsar Convention.  Located adjacent to the Humbug Marsh unit of the refuge is the Refuge Gateway property. This former industrial manufacturing site has been remediated and restored as an ecological buffer for the marsh. The Refuge Gateway is the location of the new John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center, which is scheduled to open in 2020. 

The purposes for which the Refuge is established and shall be managed are:

(1) To protect the remaining high-quality fish and wildlife habitats of the Detroit River before they are lost to further development and to restore and enhance degraded wildlife habitats associated with the Detroit River.

(2) To assist in international efforts to conserve, enhance, and restore the native aquatic and terrestrial community characteristics of the Detroit River (including associated fish, wildlife, and plant species) both in the United States and Canada.

(3) To facilitate partnerships among the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian national and provincial authorities, State and local governments, local communities in the United States and in Canada, conservation organizations, and other non-Federal entities to promote public awareness of the resources of the Detroit River.

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.  

For more information about Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge:
Detroit River Refuge Brochure (2.7 MB PDF)

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Tear Sheet (6.6 MB PDF)

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge 2020 Hunt Brochure (874 KB PDF)


Learn more about all the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Units