Get your feet wet: Explore coastal wetlands of Lake Huron
Exploring northern Lake Huron’s diversity of coastal wetland ecosystems offers scenic recreational opportunities, enhancing community and coastal tourism development.
Northeast Michigan offers vast stretches of undisturbed Great Lakes coastlines, including a wide diversity of coastal wetlands from marshes to limestone cobble shorelines. The Lake Huron Biodiversity Conservation project prioritizes this region’s valuable coastal habitats for protection; and local communities envision opportunities to leverage these assets for ecotourism - both at the heart of our sustainable coastal tourism efforts in this region.
These dynamic Lake Huron wetland ecosystems are home to a variety of plants and animal life. In a 2009 research report, coastal wetland researchers Dr. Donald Uzarski (Central Michigan University) and the late Dr. Thomas Burton (Michigan State University), estimated that more than 1400 species of plants and animals exist among Lake Huron wetlands spanning Michigan’s shoreline. Protecting these habitats is important for conservation of the broader Lake Huron ecosystem. Many resource management agencies, conservation organizations and citizen volunteers (including youth) contribute as partners in stewardship and in promoting coastal tourism opportunities in connection with these natural resources. In protecting these coastal habitats, communities are not only protecting Lake Huron ecosystems and local natural resources—they are also protecting invaluable coastal community and tourism development opportunities, improving community quality of life and attracting visitors who may value a more natural resource-based, sustainable coastal tourism experience.
A visit to the Lake Huron coastline offers opportunities to hike, explore, and enjoy spectacular scenery and wildlife watching among these coastal habitats. How many Lake Huron wetlands can you discover?
- Saginaw Bay is best known for its extensive network of coastal wetlands. The DNR Saginaw Bay Visitor Center offers an opportunity to learn more about the wetlands and abundant waterfowl. Located within the Bay City State Recreation Area, where visitors can visit Tobico Marsh, making discoveries in one of the largest coastal wetlands on the Great Lakes. Wildlife watching in these wetlands? Check out the Saginaw Bay Birding Trail.
- Negwegon State Park is known to be one of the larger undisturbed wooded dune and swale complexes in the Great Lakes; paired with sandy beach, cobble shores, and coastal marsh. Alcona School students bring these coastal resources to life through interpretive signs they designed and installed at the park.
- Rockport State Recreation Area offers miles of limestone cobble shorelines. It is home to an abandoned limestone quarry— Rockport is known for rocks! The shoreline and quarry offer opportunities to find ancient Devonian sea life fossils.
- Besser Natural Area offers a one mile woodland hike through a small virgin white pine stand; this diverse shoreline also offers a coastal lagoon, where you’ll see parts of 1877 shipwreck of the Portland (kayak or snorkel Lake Huron to visit the rest of this wreck, which is marked by buoy).
- Thompson’s Harbor State Park is best known for biodiversity and its diversity of coastal wetland communities. Grab a GPS and visit an Earth Cache site developed by youth as part of their 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp science experience. If all goes well, you’ll land at your first coastal wetland featuring carnivorous plants! This embayment of Thompson’s Harbor offers fantastic examples of coastal fens and Great Lakes marshes.Thompson’s HarborPark trails will lead you to Grand Lake Outlet where you can explore limestone cobble shores and sandy dunes or follow the outlet upstream into the wetland marsh - a great bird watching stop! Northern cedar swamps are found throughout the park and the park offers a northern Michigan bog.
- Cheboygan County abounds with wetland exploration opportunities, including a boardwalk lookout over cattails and coastal marsh in town at Gordon Turner Park , Grass Bay Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy, and Cheboygan State Park, where you can camp while exploring a range of Great Lakes coastal habitats from marshes, cobble shores to sand dunes and inter-dunal wetlands.
Learn more about Great Lakes coastal wetlands online, with Michigan Sea Grant. To explore more about diversity, ecological function, and issues facing coastal wetlands, be sure to read Between Land and Lake: Michigan’s Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands by Dennis A. Albert, published by Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
Visiting coastal northeast Michigan? Plan your trip by visiting the U.S. 23 Huron Shores Heritage Route website at http://www.us23heritageroute.org/
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