The Refuge Gateway


The 44-acre Refuge Gateway property is located on the banks of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan adjacent to the northern boundary of Humbug Marsh

  • History


    Beginning in 1946, the Refuge Gateway property was operated by Chrysler Corporation as a manufacturing facility for brake pad adhesives for automobiles, blended oils, paints, sealers, powdered metal parts, asbestos brake pads, and phenolic brake pistons.  The plant was deactivated in 1990 and underwent removal of all above-ground structures.  

    In 2002, the property was purchased by Wayne County to become the gateway to the international wildlife refuge and to become the future home of the  Refuge Visitor Center.  

    View the complete Refuge Gateway Timeline.  

    Click to enlarge image.  

  • Site Description


    The 44-acre Refuge Gateway is located on the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan. It is a brownfield site that is being restored as the Refuge Gateway. Immediately adjacent to the Refuge Gateway is Humbug Marsh – the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River.

    Over 50 years ago the entire Refuge Gateway shoreline of the Trenton Channel was filled to accommodate the industrial development of the site, destroying many coastal wetlands. Restoration work at the site will recreate a more natural shoreline at the Refuge Gateway from upland habitats through shrub-scrub, emergent wetlands, submergent wetlands, and transitioning out to paulstrine habitats. In total, 18 acres of wetlands and 26 acres of prairie/buffer habitats will be restored at the Refuge Gateway.

    The innovative restoration work being completed at the Refuge Gateway represents a net gain in wetlands in an area that has lost 97% of its coastal wetlands to development. By restoring these coastal wetlands and adjacent buffer habitats, the ecological buffer is being improved for Humbug Marsh, Michigan's only Wetland of International Importance. 

    Click to enlarge image. 

  • Refuge Gateway Master Plan


    In 2003, Wayne County initiated a master planning process for the Refuge Gateway that was completed in 2004 in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The goal of the master plan was to be a model of sustainable redevelopment by providing a blueprint for the cleanup and restoration work necessary to establish the site as an ecological buffer for Humbug Marsh and to encourage public uses. 

    View the Refuge Gateway Master Plan.  

  • Habitat Restoration


    Over the past six years, the Refuge Gateway has undergone a dramatic landscape transformation from former industrial site to restored wildlife habitat. Restoration efforts have included brownfield cap enhancement, installation of native seed, and the planting of large native trees. The goal at the Refuge Gateway is to restore quality coastal habitat, including wetland, prairie, and forest ecosystems, and build roads, parking, and trails required for full public access. Areas not receiving restored habitat or infrastructure will be used to construct the Visitor Center for the Refuge.

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  • Boat Dock & Fishing Pier


    As part of the Master Plan for the Refuge Gateway, the boat dock and fishing pier will provide accessible, shore-based fishing opportunities on the Detroit River. The project, open to the public and anglers of all skill levels, includes a boardwalk, fishing pier, floating dock, restroom facilities, seating areas, shade structures, and interpretive signage.

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  • Blueway & Kayak Landing


    The Metropolitan Affairs Coalition and many partners developed a Detroit Heritage River Water Trail that features opportunities for kayaking and canoeing. This unique ‘blueway’ or water-trail was established to both promote close-to-home paddle-based recreational opportunities and ecotourism. As part of the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail, a kayak landing was constructed at the Refuge Gateway in 2011.

    Click to enlarge image. 

    Learn more about the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail Regional Vision and Project Phases.