Pointe Mouillee State Game Area
Driving south along Jefferson Road in the Downriver region of Southeast Michigan, you pass a Detroit Edison plant with its towering twin smoke stacks and then the Monsanto chemical company and finally the remains of what was once McLoud Steel. Maybe that's what makes Pointe Mouillee State Game Area so unique. Within minutes in the rustbelt that is Downriver you travel from power plant and industrial complex to one of the most extensive marshes in Michigan.
Located near the towns of Rockwood and Gibraltar, the state game area is 4,000 acres of marshes, pools and diked ponds surrounding the mouth of the Huron River and the shoreline of Lake Erie. Historically it was much larger, so large that it's abundance of wildlife and waterfowl induced Late Woodland Indians to settle the area and then attracted French fur traders in the 1700s who gave the marsh its name of Pointe Mouillee (pronounced “Point Moo-yay”) or "wet point."
In 1875, eight millionaire sportsmen purchased the area and formed the Big 8 Shooting Club, which four years later became the Point Mouillee Shooting Club, one of the oldest in the state. Eventually the fluctuating water levels of Lake Erie eroded the protective barrier island and the wetlands began to diminish, setting the stage for one of the largest fresh water marsh restoration projects in the world.
The state game area dates back to 1945, the year the State of Michigan acquired 2,604 acres of marsh from the Pointe Mouillee Shooting Club. Restoration of the marsh began in the early 1980s when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed a disposal site for contaminated dredge material. This 700-acre facility was built offshore roughly in the same shape of the original barrier island that protected the marsh. Only now it was a man-made island that was 1,400 feet wide and curved 3.5 miles in length. The staff and visitors immediately dubbed it "the Banana.”
The result of this gigantic earth-moving and dike-building project is a regenerated marsh with thriving wetlands, marshes, and river bayous. Most of the dikes make excellent trails for hiking and easy mountain biking, with some resembling wide, gravel two-tracks. The two routes covered here are the Middle Causeway Loop, ideal for hiking, and the Perimeter Dikes better suited for mountain bikes due to it 9.8-mile length.
The main attraction of Pointe Mouille, whether you’re walking or biking, are the birds. This area provides some of the best shorebird viewing in the state, especially in late summer and early fall as well waterfowl, wading birds, and birds-of-prey. Other animals from muskrats and snakes, sunning themselves on the dikes to spawning carp, can also be seen. On the first weekend after Labor Day every year, the Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival Committee puts on their annual waterfowl festival at the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area.
When hiking or biking the state game area keep in mind that there is little shade along the dikes so sun screen, wide-brimmed hat and drinking water are necessary for longer outings. A stiff breeze is also common, being on the edge of Lake Erie, keeping the bugs at bay but chilling those who come to lightly dressed.
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