A refuge near (and from) the Motor City

Since my daughter and her family moved to Michigan, during the handful of drives I’ve taken up Interstate 75 to visit I spotted with curiosity the signs for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Each time I drove past, I made a mental note to arrange to stop the next chance I’d get.

I got that chance a few weeks back on a trip that would also take me to Indiana. The refuge is just south of the city of Detroit, at the “wrist” of the “mitten” that is lower Michigan. I stopped at the refuge on a crisp fall day, the first break on the long drive back to New Jersey.

I arrived at late morning and discovered that the large visitor center was closed because of COVID restrictions. No matter; I was more interested in being outside and grabbed a trail map.

A ring-billed gull soars above the Detroit River.

From the parking lot, I walked toward the fishing pier that juts into the river, which actually looks more like a large lake, as the refuge shoulders a wide spot on the river. Seagulls soared overhead, and I was only able to spot a few ducks and Canada geese floating in the distance near Humbug Island a short distance across the water.

Walking back toward the visitor center, I entered a wooded area with flat, easy trails. I can’t recall seeing any birds, although a buck with an impressive rack trekked cautiously through the brush nearby, evading my camera.

A great egret searches for fish in the Monguagon Delta.

I eventually reached the edge of the Monguagon Delta, where I was treated to the site of a couple of great egrets stalking out fish. Conscious of the ticking clock, I headed back toward the car to resume my drive home.

View of the Monguagon Delta, just off the Detroit River.

I only stayed at the refuge for 50 minutes, not nearly enough time to explore all its trails. I hope to get back at an earlier hour some day, when there should be more avian activity.

Although I was disappointed I didn’t see a greater number and variety of birds, I am impressed that Detroit has such a great preserve so close by, not unlike the Heinz wildlife refuge hard by Philadelphia. It’s great to know that on the edges of sprawling urban areas that have already claimed too much natural habitat from our animal neighbors, these refuges are thriving and waiting to be explored further.

My next challenge: to find a similar spot close to New York City. I have a few ideas….

Entrance to the refuge in Trenton, Michigan, accessible by a short drive off Interstate 75.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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