Erie Marsh Preserve sunrise.
Erie Marsh Preserve Erie Marsh Preserve is managed as part of the USFW's Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, preserving critical habitat for migratory birds and fish species. © Jason Whalen

Places We Protect

Erie Marsh Preserve

Michigan

Why Is This Preserve Significant?

Located on North Maumee Bay, Erie Marsh Preserve contains 11% of the remaining coastal wetlands in southeast Michigan, supporting numerous animals and plants that would otherwise be hard-pressed to find suitable habitat. The most significant feature of this area is its role as a migratory and nesting area for shorebirds, waterfowl, landbirds and, in the fall, raptors. 

In 2006, Erie Marsh became a privately-owned component of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The refuge extends along 48 miles of the Michigan and Ontario, Canada sides of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie, protecting habitat for 65 fish species, 29 waterfowl species and 300 species of migratory birds. Erie Marsh Preserve is managed through a collaboration of The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other partners.

Wetland Construction and Restoration Project
In 2011, TNC implemented a multi-year project to restore the 946 acres of highly degraded coastal wetlands at Erie Marsh. The project is restoring a critical physical and hydrological connection between the preserve and Lake Erie, as well as providing water level management capability.

The ultimate goals of the project are to allow the exchange of water and energy and movement of animals between the preserve and Lake Erie; provide access to key spawning areas for fish species; control invasive species (most notably, Phragmites); and improve the function and quality of wetlands for the tens of thousands of nesting and migratory birds that rely on Erie Marsh every season.

What Can I See Here?

No matter the time of year, Erie Marsh Preserve is a birding hotspot. As you walk along the pathways dividing the different wetland areas, you are likely to see a number of ducks, shorebirds, songbirds, or a great egret, great blue heron or black-crowned night heron. Every spring and fall, Erie Marsh serves as important nesting and stopover habitat for thousands of migratory birds to rest and feed. In the fall, bald eagles commonly breed here. At more than 2,200 acres, the preserve also harbors some of Michigan’s few remaining colonies of American lotus, and swamp rose-mallow, both listed as state-threatened, as well as the threatened eastern fox snake. 

Be advised that while the preserve is open, a multi-year wetland construction and restoration project is underway. During your visit, you may encounter areas of the preserve that are closed off to the public for safety reasons. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation while we work to restore one of the largest remaining coastal wetlands on Lake Erie.

Dress warmly for spring visits to this preserve as the wind coming off Lake Erie can be brutally cold. Be prepared for muddy and uneven terrain walking along the series of dikes. Be sure to bring along binoculars or a spotting scope if you have one. Closure of certain trails is possible during eagle nesting periods, therefore watch for posted closure signs.

Trail Map

Permitted Activities

  • Foot access for hiking, snowshoeing, bird watching, etc.
  • Educational studies

Prohibited Activities

  • No motorized and non-motorized vehicles, including but not limited to automobiles, off-road vehicles (ORVs), all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), motorcycles, snowmobiles, amphibious vehicles, and bicycles.
  • No pets
  • No removal of trees, plants or animals (alive or dead)
  • No removal of rocks, water or other non-organic materials
  • No camping, bonfires, fireworks or other fires
Spotlight on Nature: Erie Marsh Preserve