Preserving Humbug Marsh

Receives Global Recognition

Preservation of the Humbug Marsh protected the last mile of natural shoreline on the U.S. side of the Detroit River. The largely pristine, 410-acre marsh is home to numerous fish and wildlife species and stands of old-growth white oaks.


Humbug Marsh is the centerpiece of the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, which is North America’s first international wildlife refuge. The marsh—which was to be filled in and developed—was saved when thousands of area residents joined with government agencies and nonprofit organizations to preserve one of the last natural areas on the U.S. side of the Detroit River. The marsh is home to 154 species of birds, 51 species of fish, 90 species of plants, seven species of reptiles and amphibians, and 37 species of dragonflies and damselflies. In 2010, it was designated Michigan’s first Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. Humbug Marsh is one of just 27 wetlands in the U.S., and 1,886 wetlands worldwide, that have been recognized by the Ramsar Convention.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of coastal wetlands
  •  Lack of fish and wildlife habitat


Humbug marsh looking out over the Detroit River

A view of Humbug Marsh, looking out onto the Detroit River. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region.

Results and Accomplishments

The Humbug Marsh project preserved the last mile of natural shoreline along the U.S. side of the Detroit River. It has become the centerpiece of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge—a destination for people to watch wildlife, to fish and to go boating.  More than $2 million has been spent to clean up pollution on land adjoining Humbug Marsh, erect an environmental education shelter and build 1.5 miles of trails around the perimeter of the marsh. Site work began in 2011 on the Refuge Gateway project. When complete, the Refuge Gateway will include a visually stunning visitor’s center, interpretive trails, fishing piers and kayak launch sites.