Whitefish Point Unit

Piping Plovers

The Great Lakes population of piping plovers is currently listed as an endangered species. Several pairs of plovers have successfully nested at Whitefish Point for the past few years.

The Whitefish Point Unit of Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1998 with the transfer of 33 acres from the United State Coast Guard. An additional 20 acres, which included 1,000 feet of shoreline was acquired in 2012. The purchase of the additional acres was made possible by a number of private donations

The Whitefish Point Unit is nearly 80 miles away from Seney National Wildlife Refuge and is a stop-over for birds migrating to and from Canada.  The Whitefish Point region is renowned for its concentrations of birds during migration.  Each year thousands of raptors, passerines (perching birds), and water birds funnel through the Point to cross Lake Superior.  The unit's primary natural features are gravel beaches, sandy beach dunes, and stunted jack pine-dominated forest.

The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory was established by the Michigan Audubon Society in 1997 to document and study migratory birds and their habitats in the Great Lakes.  The data collected by the Audubon Society has led to the area being recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area.

Over the years numerous small foot paths have been carved into the landscape.  While this may allow you to get a closer look at birds, the dune habitat is very fragile and easily damaged.  Please stay on current trails and off the dunes. In addition, a large portion of the beach area is designated as critical habitat for the Piping Plover, an endangered species.  Piping plovers returned and have been nesting at Whitefish Point since 2009.  Please obey all signs and respect any beach closures to protect nesting Piping Plovers.

Some of the species of plants that particularly attract attention are lady-slippers, star-flower, and bunchberry, which can be found on dry, sandy areas and purple bog-laurel and white Labrador-tea, which grow in interdunal swales.  An interdunal swale is the low spot between two dunes.

Parking and restroom facilities are provided by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society which administers the former Coast Guard buildings, including the lighthouse, and interprets the maritime significance of Whitefish Point.  The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory maintains a small visitor center which has a beautiful bird feeding station, a small exhibit area, and a gift shop.

Please obey these special rules and regulations:


  • Daylight use only
  • Pets allowed on a leash (pets are not allowed in the Federally Endangered Piping Plover Nesting Area)
  • Drones are prohibited.
  • No camping
  • Fires are not allowed
  • Off-road vehicles are prohibited including snow mobiles
  • Recreational trapping/fur harvesting is not allowed 
  • Hunting is not allowed
  • Rock and drift wood collecting are not allowed
  • Do not feed the wildlife - for their safety and yours
  • Fishing is permitted in Lake Superior and is regulated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
  • Hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, wildlife observation, photography, mushroom hunting, and fruit picking are permitted.


Remember to leave those things you admire for others to see.

Whitefish Point Unit of Seney National Wildlife Refuge - Bird Checklist

*Please note that the US Fish and Wildlife Service does not control the content or policies of eBird or Google, which you may visit when accessing parts of the table below. You should always check site policies before providing any personal information or reusing content.

The former Whitefish Point Coast Guard Property was divided between three agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan Audubon Society, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society.  These entities work together to manage the property on Whitefish Point.  The following documents help guide these entities.

Human Use/Natural Resource Management Plan for Whitefish Point
First Amendment
Second Amendment