Restoring Wetlands Provides

Recreation Opportunities

Restoring wetlands in the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge is allowing native plants and wildlife to return, supporting outdoor recreation opportunities.


Once Henry Ford’s personal waterfowl hunting preserve, the Ford Marsh in southeast Michigan is now part of the 5,700-acre Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, located within the River Raisin Area of Concern. The marsh’s 175 acres of Lake Erie wetlands provide crucial habitat for bald eagles, wood ducks, osprey, blue-winged teal, whitetail deer, great blue herons, and hundreds of other native plant and wildlife species. Unfortunately, habitat quality has declined over many decades at Ford Marsh following the installation of a dike where the River Raisin empties into Lake Erie. This dike prevented water levels in the marsh to fluctuate. Without the natural flooding and drainage patterns that are crucial to supporting healthy native wildlife and vegetation, wetland conditions stagnated, allowing aquatic invasive plants like water lily and phragmites to heavily colonize the area.

Thanks to a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), wetlands conservation group Ducks Unlimited restored these vital wetlands. In 2014, workers installed a water pump and water-control structures to enable FWS managers to emulate natural flooding and drainage cycles. Contractors placed the pump and water conveyance tubes in a section of dike separating the wetland from Lake Erie so that water levels could be managed, effectively restoring the wetland’s natural hydrology, which promotes the growth of desired, native plants, while fending off invasive species. With the new water conveyance structures and pump in place, FWS managers now have the instruments they need to meet these long-term wetland habitat management goals. This effort will benefit ecologically and economically important wildlife such as waterfowl, wetland birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native plant habitat
  • Low quality habitat


Water pump with people monitoring it

Water pump and water conveyance structure will allow to naturalize the hydrology of Ford Marsh. Credit: Ducks Unlimted

Results and Accomplishments

The project has restored 175 acres of Lake Erie coastal wetland and improved hunting experiences for the surrounding area’s waterfowl hunters who will benefit from the anticipated increases in stop-over waterfowl during fall migration. Once the de-watering process is complete, the wetland will be predominately dry to allow for the marsh bottom to stabilize and set the stage for native emergent vegetation to germinate and grow once water is pumped back on the wetland.