Places We Protect

Erie Marsh Preserve

Michigan

A water-level view across a pond covered in lily pads, with a few trees on the shore and sun shining out from behind clouds at Erie Marsh Preserve in Michigan.
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

Erie Marsh represents 11% of the remaining marshland in southeastern Michigan and is one of the largest marshes on Lake Erie.

Overview

Description

Located on North Maumee Bay, Erie Marsh is one of the largest coastal wetlands on Lake Erie, 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, land birds, and in the fall, raptors. It also harbors some of Michigan’s few remaining colonies of American lotus, and swamp rose-mallow, both listed as state-threatened.

In 2011, TNC implemented a multi-year project to restore 946 acres of highly degraded coastal wetlands at Erie Marsh. This connected the marsh to Lake Erie, providing access to key spawning areas for fish, controlling invasive species (most notably, Phragmites) and improving the overall quality of the wetland. 

 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Public access to the preserve is closed during waterfowl hunting season.

Highlights

Located on western Lake Erie’s North Maumee Bay, this sprawling preserve plays a huge role as a migratory stopover and nesting site for shorebirds, waterfowl, land birds and, in the fall, raptors.

Size

2,216 acres

Explore our work in Michigan

Video

Explore Erie Marsh Virtually

Erie Marsh Wetlands (3:08) As the spring and fall migration begins, grab your binoculars and head to one of the best locations for birdwatching in the world. Erie Marsh Preserve, tucked alongside Lake Erie, is a critical nesting and stopover spot for thousands of birds.

Plan Your Visit

  • When to Visit

    The preserve is open to the public from January through August, when it closes for waterfowl hunting season.

    During the week the gate is open from 9 to 5. Even if the gate is closed, the preserve is still open to the public from dawn to dusk. 

  • What to Bring

    Dress warmly for spring visits to this preserve as the wind coming off Lake Erie can be brutally cold. Wear sturdy walking shoes or boots for the occasionally hilly or wet terrain, and bring bug repellent. Be sure to bring along binoculars or a spotting scope if you have one. 

  • Trail Info

    A 5-mile loop trail follows a series of dikes that divide the wetland types present at Erie Marsh. Be prepared for muddy and uneven terrain walking along the dikes. Closure of certain trails is possible during eagle nesting periods. Please watch for and respect any posted closure signs.

    Guide to Erie Marsh

  • Preserve Rules

    You can help us protect this preserve by enjoying low-impact, non-motorized recreation during daylight hours only. Please stay on the trails and observe these rules: no pets; no geocaching; no removal of any materials (organic or inorganic); no camping, bonfires, fireworks or other fires. Thank you for respecting the land, water and wildlife!

  • Nearby
  • Questions?

    Have questions about the preserve? Contact Shaun Howard, TNC protected lands project manager in Michigan.

Where Migratory Birds Rest and Nest

No matter the time of year, Erie Marsh Preserve offers refuge to tens of thousands of migratory birds that touch down to rest, refuel and sometimes nest here. Bring binoculars and you might see: Bald eagles, great egrets, great blue herons, black-crowned night herons, blue- and green-winged teals, mute and trumpeter swans, and more!

More on Migratory Birds
A person looks through a camera to photograph a bird at Erie Marsh Preserve in Michigan.
A bald eagle rests on the top of a tall tree on a cloudy, grey day.
A family of ducks swims along a lake.
Three white pelicans balance on a piece of concrete. One flaps its wings and splashes the water below.
A group of people look through binoculars on the Erie Marsh Preserve in Michigan.

Background

When The Nature Conservancy acquired this preserve in 1978, it was essentially 2,200 acres of highly altered, degraded wetland habitat that had been divided by barrier dikes and separated from Lake Erie since the 1950s.

That all changed in 2011, when TNC embarked on a multi-year project to restore 946 acres of high-priority coastal wetlands. Over the past decade, we have refurbished extensive marsh and wetland habitat, rehabilitated degraded levees and installed a fish passage structure that reconnected the marsh to Lake Erie’s North Maumee Bay.

Native fish and other aquatic life are now accessing new breeding and spawning areas for the first time in more than 60 years. The reconnection between wetland and lake has also helped control invasive Phragmites, allowing some of Michigan’s few remaining colonies of the state-threatened American lotus and swamp rose-mallow to thrive.

Restoring Erie Marsh (5:04) Only 5% of western Lake Erie’s original 300,000 acres of wetlands remains today, and Erie Marsh contains 11% of the wetlands left in southeast Michigan. This, along with its location within the Atlantic migratory flyway, make Erie Marsh Preserve a critical priority for coastal wetland restoration.

Keep Exploring

From shifting sand dunes to granite bald mountains, explore our preserves and reserves spread across the state of Michigan.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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