Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings. At Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge you can take a break from urban living. Southeast Michigan has a variety of natural places to explore. Hopefully the refuge will become one of your favorite local areas! Check out the list below for some options.

Driving Directions

The Refuge Gateway and Humbug Marsh units, including the John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center, are located at 5437 West Jefferson Avenue, Trenton, Michigan 48183. Look for the brown wayfinding signs on I-75. Take exit #29 and head east on Gibraltar Road. At the stop light for West Jefferson Ave, turn left - North. The main entrance will be on your right in approximately one and a half miles. Look for the large red and white DTE smokestacks to the north of the main entrance. The property is open year round during daylight hours.

Gibraltar Bay Unit

288020 East River Road
Grosse Ile, Michigan 48138

The free bridge to Grosse Ile is located off of Grosse Ile Parkway. There is a pay bridge on the northern side of the island off of Bridge Road. Look for the brown wayfinding sings. From either Grosse Ile Parkway or Bridge Road, turn south onto Meridian Road. Meridian Road will eventually dead end into Groh Road. Turn left onto Groh Road. At the next dead end, turn right onto East River Road. About a half mile down, look for Gibraltar Bay Unit entrance on your right.

Strong Unit

From the Refuge Gateway, take West Jefferson Avenue south approximately eight miles. Turn left onto Port Sunlight Road. Go approximately one mile. The unit is on the left side of the road, just south of Masserant Road. There is a small parking lot.

Fix Unit

From the Refuge Gateway, take West Jefferson Avenue south approximately 12 miles. You will have passed Nuclear Lounge on the right. Go to the stop light. It will become Dixie Highway. Turn left onto Enrico Fermi Drive. Take your first left onto Laroux Road, which is a dirt road. Take your first right onto Langton Road. Go to end and turn left at stop sign. Look for a small parking lot on your left.

Visit Us Via the Downriver Linked Greenway Trails

Did you know you can bicycle, walk or kayak to the Refuge Gateway via the North South Trail and Detroit Heritage River Water Trail? Whether you enjoy walking, biking, jogging or paddling, the Downriver Linked Greenway has a trail for everyone! Since 1998, Downriver Linked Greenways has helped to facilitate more than 75 miles of trails in the Downriver Region of Metropolitan Detroit. 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.

Fees

There is no charge to visit the refuge.

Restrooms

Porta potties can be found at both the Refuge Gateway and Gibraltar Bay units.

Refuge Gateway Unit

  • Outside the John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center
  • Near the fishing pier

Gibraltar Bay Unit

  • Behind the storage shed

Points of Interest

The Refuge Gateway is the perfect jumping off point for your refuge adventure! Wayfinding signs and brochure boxes with trail maps are located throughout the site, so you are always pointed in the right direction. There are many opportunities to relax, explore and exercise at the refuge no matter your level of comfort in nature.

Trails range from paved and level at the Refuge Gateway, to gravel and wide on the Orange Trail, to dirt and forested on the Green Trail. About half way down the Green Trail you will be rewarded with oak trees more than 300 years old!

Opportunities to relax can be found throughout the site, including benches and overlooks on the trails and rustic Adirondack chairs on the patio behind the visitor center.

A variety of animals call the refuge home and many can be easily seen if you slow down and observe your surroundings. Check out the colony of cormorants just north of the fishing pier, the great blue herons along the shoreline behind the visitor center and look for bald eagles nesting on islands in the Detroit River.

Refuge staff, volunteers and partners are always planning interactive programs.

What To Do

If you have 15 minutes

  • Enjoy the views of the lower Detroit River from the 700 foot fishing pier
  • Relax behind the visitor center on rustic Adirondack chairs as you listen to the sounds of wildlife
  • Look for wildlife visiting the wetlands near the visitor center

If you have one hour

  • Walk the Orange and Green nature trails behind the visitor center
  • Attend a refuge program to learn more about the wildlife that call the refuge home
  • Take your lunch break in style, at the picnic tables located throughout the Refuge Gateway. There are no trash cans, so please remember to bring your litter home with you.
  • If Fido is begging you for a walk, bring him along on a leash to enjoy the sights, sounds - and of course smells of nature!! Dogs must be well behaved and on a leash. Any “Fido presents” need to be bagged and brought home with you.

If you have half a day or more

  • Test your luck fishing off the 700 foot fishing pier or just enjoy the views of the lower Detroit River. All state fishing regulations apply.
  • Paddle Humbug Marsh’s Wetland of International Importance from the non-motorized paddling launch
  • Visit other refuge units that are open for self-guided exploration including: Gibraltar Bay Unit (Grosse Ile), Strong Unit (Monroe County) and Fix Unit (Monroe County).

Know Before You Go

The refuge is a fun and safe place to visit! Here are some suggestions to make your visit more enjoyable:

  • The John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center is closed due to rising COVID levels. The grounds and trails surrounding the facility, called the Refuge Gateway and Humbug Marsh units, are open year round during daylight hours.
  • The flowing units are open for self-guided visitation all year long during daylight hours: Gibraltar Bay, Strong, and Fix units. Sugar Island’s western beach is open Memorial Day – Labor Day.
  • There are no trash cans at any refuge units. Pack all litter out with you, including any “presents” left by your four-legged family members
  • Bring a reusable bottle for water - you can fill it up at the water fountains on the west side of the visitor center
  • When insects, like mosquitoes, are out in large numbers, long sleeves and insect repellent can help protect you from bites
  • The Green Trail’s dirt surface can become muddy. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty if you visit in the spring or after a rain event.
  • During the winter, be sure to dress warmly. The refuge is located along the Detroit River where winds blowing off the water can be cold.
  • While the refuge belongs to all of us, many types of wildlife call it home. Please respect the refuge and other visitors and be sure to take your litter home with you.
  • Take plenty of photos to share with your family and friends
  • Hunting is allowed on many refuge units. Consult the refuge hunt brochure for additional information.

Visitor Tips

While the refuge consists of more than 6,200 acres of unique habitat, it is not one continuous plot of land. In fact, it is made up of more than 30 separate parcels of land called refuge units. Be sure to learn which units are open for visitation before you visit.

The John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center due to rising COVID levels. The grounds and trails surrounding the facility, called the Refuge Gateway and Humbug Marsh Units, are open year round during daylight hours.

The following units are open for self-guided visitation all year long during daylight hours:

  • Gibraltar Bay Unit
  • Strong Unit
  • Fix Unit
  • Sugar Island’s western beach, Memorial Day through Labor Day

 

Unlike a zoo, the animals found at a wildlife refuge can come and go as they please, so be patient. Early morning and evening are the best times to see wildlife and take photos. Visit when you have time to sit and wait a little bit, keeping in mind that wildlife usually don’t like loud noises. Other visitors will appreciate your consideration as you lead by example.

Hunting is allowed in accordance with state and federal regulations on the following units. Learn more about refuge hunting opportunities.

  • Brancheau Unit
  • Calf Island Unit
  • Fix Unit
  • Humbug Island
  • Humbug Marsh Unit, south of the Handler Drain
  • North Maumee Bay Unit
  • Plum Creek Bay Unit
  • Strong Unit
  • Sugar Island Unit

 

Walking and Hiking

Walking and hiking the refuge is a great was to destress in today’s crazy world. Whether you are trying to fit in your 10,000 steps, take your four-legged companion with you or you just want to slow down your life’s pace, the refuge trail system has you covered. Trails range from paved and level, to primitive and uneven.

Wildlife Observation, including Birding

If observing wildlife interests you, schedule some trips to the refuge during different seasons to experience a wide variety of wildlife. The diverse habitats support a variety of resident and migratory wildlife, including more than 300 species of birds, as well as many mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects and plants.

Birding: 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 and is celebrated during an annual Hawkfest event that attracts thousands of people.

Humbug Marsh is a great place to take in a hike and has excellent vantage points for you to view wildlife.

Southeast Michigan has teamed up with southwest Ontario to create a driving birding tour that includes refuge lands.

There is always something going on - both on the refuge and at local southeast Michigan natural spaces! The refuge hosts several and participates in a variety of partner family-friendly activities and events. Self-guided activities and staff-led programs allow you to explore refuge units.

Environmental Education

Environmental education is a high priority for the National Wildlife Refuge System and Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Many educational opportunities take place at the Humbug Marsh Unit, the hub of most visitor activity. Trails, decks, boardwalks and interpretive viewpoints around the unit allow students and visitors to explore and experience the wildlife and habitat.

The refuge welcomes school groups and others interested in environmental education. School field trips and classroom visits are accommodated through tours, hikes, pond studies, games and talks. Staff at the refuge also assist college and university faculty by providing both field trips and classroom lectures on a range of topics.

Photography

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! You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.

Picnicking

Wildlife aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a meal at the refuge. Pack up a meal yourself and bring your family and friends to the refuge for a picnic. After you eat, use that energy to take a walk and explore the trails. Picnic tables are located around the John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center in Trenton, Michigan and the Gibraltar Bay Unit on Grosse Ile, Michigan. There are no trash cans available at either location. For the safety of wildlife, please pack all your litter out with you. BBQs are prohibited at all refuge locations.

Paddling

Slow down and experience the refuge from a different perspective - the waters of the lower Detroit River. If you don’t want to fight the river’s current heading back to your starting point, you have a few options:

  • Start at the non-motorized launch at Elizabeth Park in Trenton, Michigan. Paddle downstream to the Refuge Gateway Unit. Bicycle back to your vehicle via the Downriver Linked Greenway Trail. This option requires leaving a bicycle at the refuge before you begin your paddling adventure.
  • Start at the Refuge Gateway Unit and paddle downstream through Humbug Marsh Unit and into the canals of Gibraltar, Michigan. When you go back to our starting point, cut through the calmer waters of the Humbug Marsh, between the mainland and Humbug Island.

 

Use is limited to daylight hours, with no overnight camping allowed. Accessing Humbug and Calf Islands is prohibited, unless you are engaging in hunting activities.

Fishing

Fishing is allowed on the 700 foot fishing pier at the Refuge Gateway Unit, in accordance with federal and state regulations. Bank fishing is not allowed at any refuge unit. Tournament fishing is also authorized within the refuge boundary. This is 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.

Hunting

Hunting is offered on select units of Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge during Michigan state hunting seasons. These opportunities include big game, upland and small game, as well as migratory bird hunting. All regulations are listed in the refuge hunt brochure. Please ensure you are familiar with rules and regulations BEFORE setting out to hunt on refuge property.

Units that allow migratory bird hunting include:

  • The open waters of Humbug Marsh Unit - from water’s edge out into the Detroit River
  • Humbug Island
  • Calf Island Unit
  • Sugar Island Unit
  • Strong Unit
  • Brancheau Unit - special hunting permit required through lottery held at Pointe Mouillee State Game Area
  • Fix Unit
  • Plum Creek Bay Unit
  • North Maumee Bay Unit

 

Units that allow upland and small game hunting include:

  • Humbug Island
  • Calf Island Unit
  • Sugar Island Unit
  • Strong Unit
  • Fix Unit

 

Units that allow big game hunting include:

  • Humbug Marsh Unit – south of the Handler Drain - white-tailed deer archery hunters only selected through lottery in cooperation with Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Humbug Island
  • Calf Island Unit
  • Sugar Island Unit
  • Strong Unit
  • Fix Unit - closed to firearm deer hunting

Activities

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is a great place to make friends, explore nature and develop new interests. Whether you are looking for a place to spend your lunch break, unwind after work or explore with the whole family on the weekend, the refuge offers activities for all nature comfort levels. 

Trails

Orange Trail

Open season: Open year round. Walking, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. Not open to biking or horseback riding.
Length: 0.5 miles
Location of trail: Humbug Marsh Unit, look for #3 on the wayfinding signs
Surface: Gravel and boardwalk
Difficulty: ADA compliant
Information: This trail begins over the bridge behind the John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center. Enjoy views of the lower Detroit River from two observation decks - one resembles a giant eagle’s nest - and benches along the trail. The trail is wide, level and constructed to encourage little ones to run ahead of the family group. An education shelter is located midway on the trail route. School groups on field trips can routinely be found here.

Green Trail

Open season: Open year round. Walking, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. Not open to biking or horseback riding.
Length: Approximately 2.25 miles from the visitor center and back
Location of trail: Humbug Marsh Unit, look for #8 on the wayfinding signs
Surface: Dirt with wooden planks over wet areas
Difficulty: Fairly easy with benches for resting and enjoying the views. The trail can become extremely muddy during spring and after rain events.
Information: This trail gets you into the heart of the Humbug Marsh Unit, where you can try wrapping your arms around old oak trees that are more than 300 years old and enjoy the views of the lower Detroit River and northern Lake Erie. The trail is flat, with the exception of getting onto the berm along the Handler Drain.

Bayview Trail at Gibraltar Bay Unit

Open season: Open year round. Walking, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. Not open to biking or horseback riding.
Length: 0.35 miles
Location of trail: Gibraltar Bay Unit (288028 East River Road, Grosse Ile, Michigan 48138)
Surface: Dirt 
Difficulty: Easy
Information: This flat trail will take you from the parking lot through the forest before opening up to stunning vistas of Gibraltar Bay. A few overlooks and benches are provided for rest breaks or just relaxing.

Fix Unit Dike Top

Open season: Open year round. Walking, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. Not open to biking or horseback riding.
Length: 1.3 miles
Location of trail: Fix Unit - end of Langton Road in Monroe County
Surface: Gravel
Difficulty: Easy
Information: This flat trail flows the earthen dike tops that are used to manipulate water levels within the unit. Views of Swan Creek and Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station’s cooling towers can be seen along the trail.
 

Other Facilities in the Complex

While the refuge consists of more than 6,200 acres of habitat, it is not one contiguous plot of land. Made up of more than 30 separate parcels, known as refuge units, each were acquired either through purchase, donation or cooperative agreement. While some refuge units have specific covenants or stipulations about how they are to be managed, all are governed by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.

A brief description of each refuge unit is described in order of location from north to south.

Mud Island Unit

Mud Island is the northernmost island on the refuge and is closed to the public. The 21.15-acre island was donated to the National Wildlife Refuge System in 2001. Approximately 75 % of Mud Island is forested with deciduous hardwood trees and is dominated by red maple, silver maple, white ash, cottonwood and willow trees. These forests create vital stopover habitat for neotropical migrant birds during the spring and fall. Warbling vireos can often be heard in the breeding season from the tops of the cottonwood trees. Bald eagles rest there high in the treetops.

The shallow shoals surrounding the island are two feet deep on average and support a variety of aquatic plant species like wild celery. Between the mainland, city of Ecorse, and the island lies the Ecorse Channel, which is a popular fishing location for waterfowl and local residents alike. The aquatic plants here are diverse and welcome an abundance of foraging dabbling ducks and swans, both tundra and mute. A deep shipping channel exists east of the island with a large wild celery bed midstream that connects to Grassy Island.

Grassy Island / Mamajuda Shoal Unit

Grassy Island, which is closed to the public, is largely constructed of contaminated dredge material, enclosed by dikes and its surrounding waters, Mamajuda Shoal, which are biologically rich. Together, the island and shoal comprise more than 304 acres that were acquired in 1961 to establish the Wyandotte National Wildlife Refuge. At least 30 species of fish are found here including rock bass, yellow perch and emerald shiner. Numerous aquatic plants, including muskgrass, varies pondweed species and wild celery are abundant here. Diverse rock structures and current speeds create beneficial fish spawning and nursery habitat.

Although the soils are contaminated, the uplands of the island are dominated by early successional tree species including: eastern cottonwood, box elder, staghorn sumac, and willow trees. The island also has a heavy infestation of invasive plants. Albeit far from pristine, the island provides vital habitat and has demonstrated high use by neotropical migrant birds during spring and fall.

Refuge Gateway

The Refuge Gateway Unit sits adjacent to the Humbug Marsh Unit in Trenton, Michigan and was added to the refuge in 2013. This 44-acre industrial brownfield was the home of a Chrysler automotive plant until 1990. Today it is mostly owned by Wayne County, with the exception of four acres owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where the John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center is located. A master plan developed by the refuge, in collaboration with Wayne County, and other vested partners, was adopted for the site to serve as a blueprint for cleanup and restoration work.

The property currently includes the interactive, LEED certified, John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, a world-class fishing pier and picnic area. Upcoming additions include a handicap accessible kayak launch and natural playscape. This site connects to the Downriver Linked Greenway Initiative trail system and is readily accessible by car, bus, foot and bicycle.

The Refuge Gateway Unit is open for public visitation Thursday through Sunday during daylight hours.

Humbug Marsh

The 405.16-acre Humbug Marsh Unit is a major part of the conservation crescent of the lower Detroit River - including Humbug mainland, Calf Island, Gibraltar Bay and Sugar Island - and a hotspot of biodiversity in an urban landscape. Sitting south of the Refuge Gateway, Humbug Marsh is mostly forested with some areas that were clear-cut in December 1998. In 2004, the property was purchased by the refuge after a group of local supporters stopped development that would have forever changed the face of the river and surrounding lands. The parcel represents the last mile of undeveloped shoreline along the U.S. mainland of the Detroit River and contains important habitat for many rare fish and wildlife species. Humbug Marsh was designated as Michigan's first Wetland of International Importance in 2010 by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

This wet mesic flatwoods habitat is underlain by poorly drained stiff clay that can hold water for prolonged periods. Shagbark hickory, oak, ash and elm trees dominate the landscape in a mosaicked fashion across the unit with rough-leaved dogwood and goldenrod species present in early successional habitats. The coastal wetland is dominated by bulrushes, native and naturalized grasses, cattail and invasive phragmites. An ever-changing habitat that is dependent on Great Lake water levels, Humbug Marsh is a major repository of species and preservation of ecosystem processes.

Public access varies across the three parts of this unit.

  • The Humbug Marsh mainland is split by the Handler Drain. Access is allowed north of the Handler Drain during the same hours as the Refuge Gateway Unit. South of the Handler Drain is closed to public use, with the exception of an archery-only reserved deer hunt in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
  • Hunting is the only public use allowed on Humbug Island
  • Humbug Wetland is open year round for all public access, including kayaking, waterfowl hunting and fishing from watercraft. Fishing from the shoreline is not permitted.

 

Calf Island Unit

A naturally formed island in the lower Trenton Channel, this 11.36-acre island provides important stopover habitat for migratory songbirds. Each end of the island, which was acquired in 2002, is flanked by high-quality wild celery beds that create important habitat for fish and waterfowl. The forest is reflective of a history of intensive farming and development with ruins of old structures, lilac bushes and decades-old debris. On the north side of the island, an emergent wetland is surrounded by willow shrubs. A number of mature red and swamp white oaks also exist on the island. With the exception of hunting, public use activity on the island is prohibited.

Gibraltar Bay Unit

Much of the upland of the Gibraltar Bay Unit was once used as a former D-51 Nike Missile site. The site was home to 30 anti-aircraft Nike Ajax missiles, 12 launchers and two radar towers between 1955 and 1963. The embankment to Gibraltar Bay continues to protect the former launcher area. After the site clean-up was complete in 1998, the unit was restored to grassland habitat. A shoreline habitat project was completed in the mid-2000s introducing a number of native plants. The 40.53-acre property was added to the refuge in 2010.

Water flows through the embayment from the east side of Grosse Ile and supports a diverse community of aquatic plants. You’ll likely see common three-square, arrowhead, pickerelweed, American lotus, pondweeds, wild celery and muskgrass when you visit the area. The variety of plant life in this protected bay is important for multiple bass species, northern pike and long-nose gar. The Gibraltar Bay Unit is open year round for self-guided exploration.

Sugar Island Unit

Situated on the southeast end of Grosse Ile, just one mile from Boblo Island and one and a half miles from Amherstburg, Ontario, the 28.94-acre Sugar Island is fascinating from a fish and wildlife perspective. The state-endangered channel darter is found around the island’s quick currents and rocky substrate. The only two significant sand beaches on the Michigan side of the international border exist on the east and west side of the island. These beaches are locally unique with common three-square and rufous bulrush at the ever-changing water’s edge. Willow trees, silverweed, milkweed and other native plants can be found in the island’s sandy environment. The forest is particularly diverse, with understories rich in native grasses and sedges, as well as a stand of young sugar maple trees. Sugar Island was added to the refuge in 2011. The western beach of the island is open for public use from Memorial Day through Labor Day, otherwise hunting is the only public use allowed.

Gibraltar Wetlands Unit

Acquired in 2008, the 358.58-acre Gibraltar Wetlands Unit is located within a half-mile of the 405-acre Humbug Marsh Unit. A large contiguous block of protected land is rare in an urban area, but even rarer still is the diversity of habitat within this unit. Significant to the local landscape and cultural history of the area, Brownstown Creek flows through the eastern portion of the unit. It’s fringed by river bulrush and dominated by blue-joint grass. Stands of mature black walnut and pin oak trees exist along with large swaths of dogwood and buckthorn shrub. The large wetland mitigation on the south half of the wetlands contains wet reed-canary grass habitat and rich green ash swamp. The Gibraltar Wetlands Unit is situated adjacent to the Gibraltar Carlson High School and is frequently used by the school's wetlands science classes via special use permit. This unit is closed to the public.

Lake Erie Metropark Unit

The 780-acre Lake Erie Metropark Unit is managed in cooperation with the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority. With sweeping lake vistas, a golf course, wide open spaces and hiking trails, the park is a popular recreation area. The habitats of the Metropark are a mix of wetlands and early-successional forest. In 2006, a cooperative agreement was finalized which added this as a cooperatively managed unit of the refuge.

U.S. Silica Unit

The U.S. Silica Unit is managed cooperatively by the refuge, in partnership with U.S. Silica Holdings. The unit encompasses 95 acres and consists of Great Lakes Marsh and Hardwood Swamp, with water levels influenced by the Huron River, Detroit River and Lake Erie. Navigable waters are open to the public.

Taylor Unit

The Clive and Clarice Taylor Unit was donated to the refuge in 2016 by the late Clive Taylor and his wife, Clarice. The 43-acre property is hydrologically connected to Lake Erie through Mouillee Creek. Mr. Taylor spent years creating wildlife habitat from former agricultural fields that now include 14.5 acres of wetlands, 14 acres of agricultural lands, scenic oak and hickory woodlots and prairie / grassland habitat. The unit attracts an incredible variety of animals including deer, beavers, opossums, coyotes, muskrats, mink, wood ducks, geese, great blue herons, snowy egrets and other waterfowl. The Taylor Unit will eventually be used primarily for environmental education purposes and is currently not open to the public.

Strong Unit

Another unit that is highly influenced by Lake Erie water levels, the Strong Unit, contains emergent wetland, a former shoreline ridge of trees and wet meadow communities. Unique to this unit is the abundance of blue-joint grass, shoreline sedge, rose mallow, and swamp milkweed. These meadows are surrounded by willow shrubs, dogwoods, and mature oaks, which collectively create an important diversity of habitat for native species. This unit was acquired in 2004 and includes 168 acres in its main tract, 36 acres south of the Estral Beach Dike and six acres across Port Sunlight Road. Self-guided public use, including hunting, is only allowed on the main 168-acre parcel. The protection dike to the south is owned by Estral Beach and walking or crossing on it is prohibited.

Brancheau Unit

Brancheau was the first unit purchased for the newly established Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in 2003. Half of the wetlands at Brancheau are surrounded by dikes, giving refuge staff the ability to control water levels for wildlife within the unit. Brancheau is a safe haven for a variety of bird species, including a high abundance of sora, marsh wrens, common gallinule, American coots and pied-billed grebes that all nest at there. Least bittern can be heard calling here and are periodically seen when they rise above the cattails. This unit is a combination of several tracts that total 223.78 acres. It consists of roughly 80 acres of diked wetlands, 54 acres in two prairie tracts along Blanchett Street and Strong Road, and another 90 acres of adjacent coastal wetlands outside the dikes that are open to Lake Erie.

A portion of the diked area is open to waterfowl hunting through a drawing with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and hunters typically take blue and green-winged teal, gadwall, wood duck and mallard. With the exception of hunting, public use of the Brancheau Unit is prohibited.

Fix Unit

The majority of the 95.03-acre Fix Unit was agricultural fields prior to a habitat restoration project conducted from 2016 to 2017, that restored a portion of the landscape back into wetlands. Today, the unit consists of coastal wetland habitat, a small forest and two diked wetlands that allow refuge staff to manipulate water levels to mimic natural lake level changes. The property was acquired in 2007 and has a rich diversity of wetland plants, as well as a healthy population of prairie cordgrass, a Michigan species of special concern. This unit is adjacent to the Michigan Nature Association Swan Creek Plant Preserve, which includes state-threatened American lotus beds. Self-guided public use is allowed, including hunting.

Lagoona Beach Unit

The 656.45-acre Lagoona Beach Unit has been managed cooperatively by the refuge in partnership with DTE Energy since 2003 and is closed to the public. This unit, which surrounds the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant, is comprised of wetlands that are dominated by American lotus, cattail and phragmites.

Port of Monroe Unit

The Port of Monroe Unit was donated to the refuge in 2015 by the city of Monroe and the Port of Monroe, which were co-owners of the 35.2-acre parcel. The unit is directly adjacent to Interstate 75 and across from Sterling State Park. The property is mostly coastal wetlands with a hydrological connection to Lake Erie. The Port of Monroe Unit is closed to the public.

Ford Marsh Unit

Ford Marsh became part of the refuge in 2009 and is closed to the public. It is approximately 180 acres of contiguous wetland and 60 acres of uplands adjacent to the mouth of the River Raisin and Lake Erie. This unit is a significantly large wetland within the western Lake Erie landscape, and was once part of the historic Golo Club, which was an early hunt club that boasted General George Custer as a member. Later it was used as a private hunt club for the Ford family. Previously dominated by white water lily, the unit now has water management capabilities that allow it to be managed to mimic a naturally functioning marsh. This has increased the diversity of wetland plants to include American lotus, arrowhead, river bulrush, bur weed and smartweed. Hundreds of waterfowl have been seen including Northern shovelers, blue and green-winged teal, American black ducks and gadwall.

Plum Creek Bay Unit

The 125.74-acre Plum Creek Bay Unit was donated to the refuge in 2008 and is directly influenced by wind events that dictate the amount of water in the bay. West winds blow water out, while east winds flood the bay. Plum Creek flows into this bay in the northwest corner and a number of natural springs flow into the bay on the south side.

Refuge staff have begun treatment of phragmites throughout the unit to promote the many species of native wetland plants found here. Secretive marsh birds like sora and Virginia rail are particularly abundant here during nesting and migration. Shorebirds like least and semipalmated sandpipers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, killdeer and a variety of herons and egrets are frequently seen in the mudflats and shallows of this unit. With the exception of hunting, public use activity on the Plum Creek Bay Unit is prohibited at this time.

Lady of the Lake Unit

The Lady of the Lake Unit was originally under a cooperative management agreement with Consumers Energy, until 2017 when they donated it to the refuge. This unit is 39.5 acres of wetlands and western Lake Erie shoreline situated next to the J.R. Whiting Power Plant. The wetland is connected to Lake Erie via a water control structure structure
Something temporarily or permanently constructed, built, or placed; and constructed of natural or manufactured parts including, but not limited to, a building, shed, cabin, porch, bridge, walkway, stair steps, sign, landing, platform, dock, rack, fence, telecommunication device, antennae, fish…

Learn more about structure
on the LaPointe Drain that allows the unit to be actively managed by pumping or left open to allow fish passage. The Lake Erie side of the wetland is a natural beach ridge with a sand beach worked by wave action on the east side. Unhardened sand beaches are rare along the Western Lake Erie Basin. The scarcity of the water / beach interface in this region reduces erosion and protects important and unique species and ecosystem processes. The Lady of the Lake Unit is closed to the public.

Holloway Unit

The 47.73-acre Holloway Unit was acquired in 2011 and is a slice, in terms of the surrounding landscape, of the Erie Marsh and Erie State Game Area. Much of it is covered in American lotus. The uplands contain a mix of shrub and grassland habitat. The Holloway Unit is closed to the public.

North Maumee Bay Unit

The 199 acres of coastal wetland directly north of Erie Marsh Preserve was donated to the refuge in 2017 by Consumers Energy. The unit is adjacent to our Holloway Unit and just south of the Lady of the Lake parcel. The property is mostly open water, water lily, and American lotus surrounded by various shoreline and islands. The only access to this property is by water. With the exception of hunting, public use activity on the North Maumee property is closed to the public.

Erie Marsh Preserve Unit

A cooperative unit with The Nature Conservancy since 2006, the preserve and adjacent Erie State Game Area is one of the largest contiguous coastal marshes along the western basin and very significant in preserving a vast array of the region’s flora and fauna. The preserve consists of 2,216.63 acres of managed diked wetlands, upland forests and coastal wetlands open to Lake Erie.

The Erie Marsh Preserve is open to the public for general self-guided exploration, except during waterfowl season. The Nature Conservancy has a lease agreement with the Erie Shooting Club, the original owner, for the exclusive rights of use during the state waterfowl season.

Gard Island Unit

Gard Island is managed cooperatively with the University of Toledo and is closed to the public. The 18.80-acre island is located within North Maumee Bay. In 2005 it was added as the southernmost unit of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.

Rules and Policies

Welcome to your international wildlife refuge. National wildlife refuges are places where wildlife comes first. However, some units of the refuge are open to wildlife compatible public recreation uses including fishing, hunting, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretive activities. These activities, when and where allowed, are carefully managed to ensure sustainable natural resources.

To ensure your safety and protect wildlife and habitat, please be aware of refuge regulations.

The refuge is open during daylight hours. Hunting is permitted in certain areas. The only items that may be taken from the refuge are wild fruits, berries and nuts - all for personal consumption. Dogs must be kept on a leash, unless engaged in an authorized hunting activity.

Locations

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
5437 West Jefferson Avenue Trenton, MI 48183
Hours
John D. Dingell Jr. Visitor Center Hours
Thursday
9:00 - 4:00 p.m. (Closed Federal Holidays)
Friday
9:00 - 4:00 p.m. (Closed Federal Holidays)
Saturday
12:30 - 4:00 p.m. (Closed Federal Holidays)
Sunday
9:00 - 4:00 p.m. (Closed Federal Holidays)
Refuge Gateway, Humbug Marsh, Gibraltar Bay, Fix and Strong Units Hours
Daily, year round including federal holidays
Sunrise - Sunset
Sugar Island - Western Beach Hours
Memorial Day through Labor Day
Sunrise - sunset
Note:
The remainder of the island is closed to public use, except during hunting season.