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

    Young Duck Hunters with ducks photo 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 Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge 2020 Hunt Brochure , or pick up a copy at an information kiosk located at the Strong, Fix and Brancheau Units, or contact Refuge headquarters at this email address 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

    Member of Sigma club birdwatching

    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. 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. 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.
    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 Map and Guide (33 MB PDF), that includes refuge lands. 

  • Environmental Education

    Children with a Ranger at an 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. Many educational opportunities take place in Humbug Marsh, the hub of most visitor activity.

    Humbug Marsh is a “Wetland of International Importance” located at the Refuge Gateway, and is next to the new John D. Dingell Visitor Center. Trails, decks, boardwalks and interpretive viewpoints around the Humbug Marsh unit allow students and visitors to explore and experience the wildlife and habitat. Visitors are invited to experience more educational programming at the many special events hosted in collaboration with partners and volunteers.

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  • Interpretation

    Young people on an interpretive walk with a ranger

    National wildlife refuges provide opportunities for visitors to connect to nature. The Refuge offers a number of family-friendly interpretive activities and events. Self-guided activities and staff-led programs allow visitors to explore refuge units during special events and open houses. For a complete list of refuge programs, see our events calendar.

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  • Photography

    A photographer looking over the Detroit River

    Wildlife observation and photography opportunities abound at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, we welcome you to explore America’s first international wildlife refuge! 

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