Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge/Humbug Marsh – Part I

Way back in October, I made my first foray to the 44-acre Refuge Gateway of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, located on the Trenton Channel of the Detroit River in Trenton, Michigan.

For me, it was a long-awaited visit, since this portion of the 48-mile International Wildlife Refuge was well overdue by the time of its grand opening on October 1, 2020. This was not just because of COVID, which halted some work at this Trenton Gateway venue, but simply because it was such a massive project, spanning many years, which began with the demolition of formerly industrial toxic areas that long occupied the Detroit riverfront. These are three photos of info about that demolition and eventual revitalization. There are many informational kiosks located throughout this venue.

A few facts for you.

The entire Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge encompasses much more than just this Trenton Gateway venue. It actually includes 48 miles of the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie shorelines, several Refuge Islands, marshes, shoals and waterfront lands. So this Trenton Gateway is merely a portion of the entire wetland area. It is still a work in progress with a Visitor Center yet to open due to COVID and additional hiking trails will be added to the three miles of trails currently available.

I have followed the progress of this venue via Facebook for several years, and, like my good friend Ann Marie, we would always glance over at this work-in-progress site each time we respectively drove along Jefferson Avenue, when returning from Lake Erie Metropark, which is four miles away.

After the grand opening was announced, I could hardly wait to go. I e-mailed Ann Marie with the good news and the specifics. Because this venue is open Thursday through Sunday only, not surprisingly there were crowds that initial weekend, with lot of photos and comments posted by happy trekkers and fishermen. My elation faded a tad … oh ya … the crowds and social distancing. Thus, I resolved to bide my time until the newness wore off and then I’d stop by. After three weeks, I triple masked-up and made the first of three visits last Fall. That visit will be the subject of today’s post.

Of course, being trigger happy with the shutter button on those three visits created a colossal dilemma, i.e. the unwieldy task of sorting through a ton of photos, then writing the narrative to go with each trek. My picture files groaned with the many shots and languished all these months while I spun out posts from my Fall and Winter excursions. I decided to pick my favorite shots from this venue and do two posts only and thankfully finally got it done yesterday due to an ugly weather day.

Here’s the recap of that first visit

Trip #1 was on October 25th. It began as a dark, dismal and gray Sunday morning and for that reason I chose to visit this newest natural gem in the Downriver area. I had method in my madness because I also figured the chilly temps (42F/5C) (10 degrees below normal) and gusty winds would surely keep the crowds away. Yep – a good idea, as I was the only one meandering around the woods, marsh and Delta areas, though there were about ten fisherman hoping for their catch of the day on the Korneffel Fishing Pier.

Along the very long, sloped walkway that leads to the Korneffel Fishing Pier I was bombarded with informational signs – so much information, but so little time, and, because of my concern over crowding, I picked up a few pamphlets and photographed some signs to read before I returned and also to help with stats to compile my narratives.

I started along the Korneffel Fishing Pier which is a whopping 700 feet (213 meters) long and juts out into the western Trenton Channel. There is plenty of room for fishermen and folks with binoculars and cameras without bumping into one another. I am sure it will be a hoppin’ place when the Silver Bass and Walleye begin running later this Spring.

I could see the Detroit River and off in the distance, Lake Erie from my vantage point on this pier.

I climbed back up the slope and saw the Visitor Center at the top of the hill. I am looking forward to checking it out once it finally opens.

There were signs indicating future pollinator areas so I hope that once we get to Summer, we’ll have a butterfly haven as well.

As I headed back up to Jefferson Avenue to get a shot of the sign to use as my header image, the pesky clouds parted and a hint of sunshine peeked out (not that it warmed me up and my fingers were getting numb). As the sky brightened, I was sorry I hadn’t waited to get better shots, but I knew I would be returning.

There was an Art-in-the Park exhibit here. It looked a little out of place, but I know the Detroit Institute of Arts had a campaign to enlighten people with reproductions of art from the DIA and thus many such paintings were featured in the Trenton-area parks from August through October.

Because of the wind buffeting me from time to time, I did not walk along the Monguagon  Boardwalk. Yes, I was a fraidy-cat, but it has no railings – yikes! Nor did I walk out onto this boat launch area.

I lamented over losing a shot of a Great Egret that was spooked by my arrival, but decided he was too far away anyway. However, just a few minutes later, luck was with me in a small cove where I had an up-close-and-personal visit with a Great Blue Heron. I’ll save those pictures for this week’s Wordless Wednesday post.

I wandered around Humbug Marsh and explored that woodsy area as well. My initial impression from this visit was the contrast between the streamlined, modern-looking fishing pier and Visitor Center versus the rustic simplicity of Humbug Marsh which meanders along the River and is part of the 300-year-old Old Growth Forest. Some forest hiking trails are natural turf, while other trails have planks to cross Vernal Ponds or marshy areas. You may walk or bike on these trails. Humbug Marsh is touted as “the only mile of undeveloped land left along the Detroit River.” A separate and much shorter post on Thursday will be devoted to just Humbug Marsh.

About Linda Schaub

This is my first blog and I enjoy writing each and every post immensely. I started a walking regimen in 2011 and decided to create a blog as a means of memorializing the people, places and things I see on my daily walks. I have always enjoyed people watching, and so my blog is peppered with folks I meet, or reflections of characters I have known through the years. Often something piques my interest, or evokes a pleasant memory from my memory bank, so this becomes a “slice o’ life” blog post that day. I respect and appreciate nature and my interaction with Mother Nature’s gifts is also a common theme. Sometimes the most-ordinary items become fodder for points to ponder over and touch upon. My career has been in the legal field and I have been a legal secretary for four decades, primarily working in downtown Detroit, and now working from my home. I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in print journalism in 1978, though I’ve never worked in that field. I like to think this blog is the writer in me finally emerging!! Walking and writing have met and shaken hands and the creative juices are flowing once again in Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy – hope you think so too. - Linda Schaub
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28 Responses to Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge/Humbug Marsh – Part I

  1. Looks like a really nice area. Glad they were able to clean it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, it is really improved from what it used to be. They have another big area in Trenton where they just tore down a huge industrial plant and residents are rallying to get a river walk or another nature site of some kind there. I hope they succeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. J P says:

    It is nice to see the effort that has gone into this area. When I hear “Detroit River” this is not the picture that came to mind before this photo essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      I know – you think of industry and we have one large industrial plant was just razed and residents are rallying for a river walk or nature site to be placed there in its stead. I hope they are successful. This 48-mile stretch of the River looks much better now. When I discovered BASF Waterfront Park last year, I learned it was a former site that in its heyday was once used for shipbuilding, steelmaking and other heavy industrial uses. It took several years to decontaminate the toxic chemicals out of the ground and now it is still another beautiful riverside park.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow — that visitor center looks so inviting! What an exciting addition to our National Wildlife Refuge System and you are fortunate to live so close to it. 🙂 We only have one in our state, created in 1971. I still haven’t been… From looking at your refuge’s website I see it has oak and hickory trees more than 300 years old! Looking forward to seeing what wonders you uncover in your future visits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      I was there again last Sunday Barbara and I was looking for those elusive Spring Peepers in the Vernal Pond. No frogs though and in this Thursday’s post, I have pictures of the Shagbark Hickory, a tree I had maybe seen in the past, but did not know the name of it until you mentioned that type of tree in a recent post. The forest is 300 years old and I learned those Hickories can grow 100 feet tall and live 350 years. The Visitor Center is still closed due to COVID as of last Sunday. The first time I was there, they were still working on it. They have laid beach glass into pieces of stone to surround the Visitor Center and when the light catches it, it looks like water ripples. I took pictures but they did not look water so I will try again. The Adirondack chairs at the Visitor Center are also found in some observation decks near the forest. I think it will be great once the trees leaf out and the wildflowers spring up, plus more critters are active. One of our Congresswomen, whose late husband, Congressman John Dingell, was instrumental in getting this project instituted, was at this site, maybe for the grand opening, and a big snake slithered right past her. So, I am going to need to be mindful of that when walking here. I’d probably faint dead away.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandra J says:

    I love it when they refurbish areas that are great for animals habitats and for people to get out and enjoy nature. To be able to take out all the old stuff, polluted soil and make it lush again is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      You’re so right Sandra. They have done that with BASF Waterfront Park where I’ve written about a couple of times. It was a shipbuilding yard with industrial waste from steelmaking processes and they removed the toxic waste and now it is a nice waterfront park along the Detroit River though not quite as rustic as here with its Old Growth Forest, Delta and marshes. I’m looking forward to more trips once the leaves are out, the wildflowers are out, etc.

      Like

  5. That was a lovely armchair tour.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Thank you Anne – I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thursday’s post will be a little more colorful as I walked through and the outskirts of the forest. I am looking forward to when the trees come out and the wildflowers are in bloom.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rebecca says:

    Looks like an interesting and fun place to be part of nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! Looks like they did a good job returning this area to a more natural state. You should be able to see all kinds of wildlife there! How exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, it was all industrial along the River … much better now and at the Marsh here, it is one mile of pristine, natural shoreline. I will wait another month and then return – I am looking forward to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ally Bean says:

    It all look so new, because of course it is. I’m always happy to read about ways in which regions create inviting nature preserves. This is a good one and you’re lucky to be near enough to it to visit it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, I am looking forward to when the trees leaf out, the wildflowers are out, etc. It will be a popular venue for fishing and kayaking. I thought of you when I put this post and Thursday’s post together as I had told you about the colorful Adirondack chairs. On the observation decks they are orange.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Laurie says:

    That historical marker is a good reminder of how we need strong laws to protect our waterways. They were really bad back in the 70s.

    This looks like a beautiful spot with a nice visitors’ center for you to visit. I hope to see lots of wildlife photos from this location. I love it when people work to clean up the mess we have made. What a great wildlife refuge!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, all the industry in Detroit over the years has made a mess. They have cleaned up that entire 48-mile stretch and we have another large factory was just razed late last year and the city where it stood for decades is asking residents for ideas – the residents want a river walk or a nature park, so I hope that happens too.

      Like

  10. ruthsoaper says:

    If there is one thing that is done well in our state it is parks. I can’t wait to hear/see your future visits to this one. I bet you will have beautiful photos this summer. Wow! I can picture that 700 foot long pier. Our property is 1000 feet deep and my husband and I always marvel how long 1000 feet is considering that some of the boats he sailed on were 800 feet long. I don’t blame you for staying off the ones with no railings. I would too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, that is so true Ruth and the past three years I have added the “recreation passport” to my driver’s license and this year I aim to go to at least two state parks. I think it will be beautiful come Summer when the trees and wildflowers are out – in my post this Thursday I mention that they have a wild Hibiscus growing in the woods – they called it a “swamp rose” so I hope to see that. I mention it as you were able to I.D. a flower I did not know. It is a long pier – I’ll bet they line up for Walleye and Silver Bass runs. Was your husband fascinated with the story of the Ever Given. The pictures were incredible as to the size. I had no idea a ship could be the length of the Empire State Building!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ruthsoaper says:

        My husband watched the story (online) from beginning to end. He remembers the challenges of going through the Welland Canal.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        I thought your husband might be interested in this entire story Ruth. I cannot imagine a boat this big – it boggles my mind. Luckily no injuries were involved … it was amazing seeing the steam shovels trying to help and the tugboats which looked so small in comparison to this ship.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. The refuge is huge! What a nice visitor center too. I would love this place for walking too. Also, the blue heron visited my pond today. Your can’t see into the water since they are still winterized so I don’t know if he got any fish…lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      I am looking forward to nicer weather which hopefully will bring out some wildflowers and more birds too. The heron was that hungry he decided to stop by … well it is the Lenten season after all. I am glad he couldn’t gain access. You’ll have your work cut out for you in a few week’s time, between getting the pond ready again and the Wisteria. I was surprised to see several Magnolia trees when walking home today … perfect timing as we have snow flurries today and tomorrow. That fishing pier here will draw a ton of fishermen as they don’t even need a boat as the pier juts out so far into the water.

      Like

  12. Pingback: Refuge Gateway: Humbug Marsh – Part II | WALKIN', WRITIN', WIT & WHIMSY

  13. Joni says:

    Wow, what a major project…..no wonder they’ve been working on it so long. It looks like you could spend days there. I loved the art reproductions….what a great idea. I wouldn’t have been able to go out on the pier either without handrails…..that kind of thing makes me dizzy and I can’t swim!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Schaub says:

      Yes, this took a while to finish after they did the demolition and clean-up and the marsh is one mile of pristine natural land where no industry has ever been. I didn’t know about the Art in the Park reproductions or I would have gone to the various parks and made a post about them. They have had done that in the past in Grand Rapids and in Detroit, but not usually here. I was leery of walking that plank as I can’t swim either. I was really scared after I walked that pier that went from the lighthouse across to land. I think it was 50 feet, and all but about 10 feet had no barrier on either side. Waves were lapping up near the plank because we had had an inordinate amount of rain that year. My legs were still wobbly from the 51-step-climb to the top of the lighthouse … going up was bad enough, without the trip down … and no railings there either as they wanted to keep the vintage look. Yikes! Never again.

      Liked by 1 person

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