Visitor Activities


Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge offers visitors unique opportunities to explore over 40 miles of Detroit River and Lake Erie shoreline habitat.

  • Hunting

    Duck Hunters Credit Joe Robison

    Hunting is offered on select units of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge during Michigan state seasons.  These opportunities include big game, small game and migratory bird hunting on five refuge units: Humbug Island, Calf Island, Sugar Island, Strong, and Fix. Migratory bird hunting is available at the Plum Creek Bay Unit and at the Brancheau Unit via special permit through a daily lottery facilitated in cooperation with Michigan Department of Natural Resources at Pointe Mouillee State Game Area.


    All Refuge hunting seasons will coincide with state hunting seasons.  For authorized hunting, the refuge is open 1 1/2 hours before legal shooting time to 1 hour after legal shooting time. Michigan state regulations and refuge specific regulations will be enforced. Refuge regulations supersede state regulations. Hunting is allowed only on refuge units described in the refuge hunt brochure.  Only the species listed in the refuge hunt brochure may be hunted.  


    Download the current Refuge Hunt Brochure & Map, pick up a copy at an information kiosk located at the Strong, Fix and Brancheau Units, or contact Refuge headquarters at 734-365-0219 to have one mailed. 


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  • Fishing

    A Young Angler at Detroit River Refuge

    Fishing is allowed at designated locations on the refuge in accordance with federal and State regulations. Bank fishing is not allowed at Grassy Island; however, offshore fishing is permissible in the surrounding area. Tournament fishing is also authorized within the refuge boundary, a common occurrence due to the great sport fish populations of popular game fish, like smallmouth bass and walleye, available in the waters of the lower Detroit River and western Lake Erie.



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  • Wildlife Viewing

    Wildlife Observation

    Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge habitats support 300 species of birds, including 30 species of waterfowl, 23 species of raptors, and 31 species of shorebirds, plus 117 kinds of fish. More than three million waterfowl migrate through the Great Lakes annually. American black ducks gather in the marshes of western Lake Erie before completing their fall journey south. Migrating canvasbacks rest and feed on beds of wild celery in the lower Detroit River. Wood ducks, mallards, and blue-winged teal nest in the area, and a wide variety of wading birds and shorebirds reside within the refuge boundary during the summer months. Great blue herons and common egrets hunt in the area’s shallow waters, while dunlins, spotted sandpipers, yellowlegs, and dowitchers probe the sands for tasty morsels. 
    Opportunities to view wildlife on the refuge and within its boundary are rampant. Humbug Marsh contains hiking trails and nature observation vantage points for visitors to enjoy wildlife viewing opportunities; southeast Michigan has teamed up with southwest Ontario to create a driving birding tour, Byways to Flyways, that includes refuge lands; and the lower Detroit River is considered one of the best places in North America to watch hawks during the Fall raptor migration which is celebrated during an annual Hawkfest event that attracts thousands of people.

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental Education Program at Detroit River

    Environmental education is a high priority for the National Wildlife Refuge System and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The majority of educational opportunities take place primarily in Humbug Marsh, the hub of most visitor activity. Because of its status as a “Wetland of International Importance;” its proximity to the location of the Refuge Gateway, the future site of the Refuge Visitor Center; and the trails, decks, boardwalks and shelters present in and around the unit, Humbug Marsh is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the refuge. Visitors are invited to experience more educational programming at some of the many off-site events hosted in collaboration with partners and volunteers as well. 

    Staff limitations restrict the number of field trips and group visits available to the refuge at this time. However, additional programs, both on and off-site, are being developed and will be made available soon. For a complete list of refuge programs, view our events calendar available at or contact the refuge for more information.


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  • Interpretation

    Interpretation Crop_Steve Dushane

    National wildlife refuges across the country provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to nature. Although visitation is limited at Detroit River Refuge because of the lack of staff, a number of family-friendly interpretive activities and events are offered to the public. Self-guided activities and staff-led programs give visitors the opportunity to explore refuge units during special events and open houses. For a complete list of refuge programs, see our events calendar or contact the refuge for more information about upcoming events.


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  • Photography

    Photography on the Detroit River

    The many wildlife observation opportunities available at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge provide the perfect setting for nature photographers to capture the perfect shot. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, we welcome you to explore America’s first international wildlife refuge! For more information regarding refuge programs and open houses, see our events calendar or contact the refuge directly.


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