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Humbug Marsh

Humbug Marsh




  • Currently a Ramsar Site
  • Protects biological diverse wetland flora, fauna and/or their habitat
  • Supports significant numbers of wetland-dependent fauna, such as water birds or fish
  • Rare or unique wetland type within its own biogeographical region.

The Detroit River, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie, has a long history of industrial development along its shoreline and is a major commercial navigational system. As a result, coastal marshes along this riverine system have been greatly degraded (Manny et al. 1988). For this reason, in Michigan, the Great Lakes marsh natural community is classified as S3 (Vulnerable), due to its relatively few occurrences, recent and widespread declines, or other factors making it vulnerable (Albert 2001, MNFI 2007).

Humbug Marsh, a management unit of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and a designated RAMSAR site, is a unique and significant site worthy of the “Wetlands of Distinction” designation. This site provides habitat for a number of species, is considered essential for the preservation of migrating raptor species and other migrating waterfowl and passerines, and serves as a spawning and nursery habitat for many fish species (USFWS 2014).


Albert, D. A. (2001). Natural community abstract for Great Lakes marsh [Updated June 2010]. [Online.] Available at

Manny, B., T. Edsall, and E. Jaworski (1988). The Detroit River, Michigan: An Ecological Profile [Biological Report 85(7.17). [Online.] Available at

MNFI (2007). Michigan Natural Features Inventory - Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). [Online.] Available at

USFWS (2014). Humbug Marsh. Detroit River International Wildlfe Refuge - Michigan. [Online.] Available at

Exemplary Ecosystem Services:

  • Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion
  • Aesthetic/cultural heritage value/ provisioning
  • Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)
  • Education



Public Access: Yes

Conservation status: RAMSAR Designation

Adjacent Land Use: Urban

Approximate natural buffer width:

  • > 100 ft

Other: Managed by USFWS


Approximate size: 166 ha (410 acres)

General wetland characterization:

  • Coastal Shallow Fresh Marsh
  • Coastal Deep Fresh Marsh

Adjacent Water Bod(ies):

  • Stream

Name of body of water: Detroit River (HUC 04090004)

Surficial Geology:

Lacustrine clay and silt

If Adjacent to Stream, stream order: River


Blount loam, Erie-Huron Lake Plain, 0 to 2 percent slopes (BfA); Cut and fill land (Cu); Glynwood loam, 2 to 6 percent slopes (GnB); Marsh (Mb); Metamora sandy loam, 0 to 3 percent slopes (MeA); Nappanee silt loam, 0 to 4 percent slopes (NaB); Owosso-Morley complex, 2 to 6 percent slopes (OwB); Water (W); Ziegenfuss clay, 0 to 1 percent slopes (ZfsabA).


Dominant flora: Communities in Humbug Marsh include: early successional shrub thickets; wet-mesic flatwoods, Great Lakes marsh (Slaughter and Penskar 2015).

Unique flora: Carex trichocarpa (hairy-fruited sedge), documented in wet meadows at the margins of emergent marsh along the Detroit River.

Dominant fauna: Many migratory birds, at least 158 recorded bird species (eBird Checklist); seven species of reptiles and amphibians. Source:

Rare fauna: eastern fox snake (ST); russet-tipped clubtail (SSC); peregrine falcon (SE); red-shouldered hawk, common loon, bald eagle, black-crowned night heron, osprey, caspian tern, common tern (ST). Source:


Humbug Marsh RAMSAR Criteria

An Ecological Interpretation of the Humbug Marsh Unit

Audubon - Important Bird Areas

Designating a Sustainable Future through Creation of North America’s Only International Wildlife Refuge

Heritage Preserved Along the Detroit River

Detroit Heritage River Water Trail



Applicant First Name: Guadalupe

Applicant Last Name: Cummins

Applicant E-mail Address:


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