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Tobico Marsh


  • National Natural Landmark
  • The Nature Conservancy Natural Areas Registry
  • Dedication by Natural Resources Commission Resolution (1966)

Size: 1652 acres

Location:In Saginaw Bay area, just north of Bay City

Management: Bay City Recreation Area

Activities: Hiking, hunting, non-motorized fishing, wildlife viewing, nature study, canoeing, birdwatching, photography, wildflower viewing

Importance: With its large open lagoon, extensive marshes and geographic position along a major migratory bird flyway, it is a unique and valuable area. Almost within the city limits of Bay City, it offers a glimpse of rare Michigan flora and fauna which can be duplicated only in the larger wild areas of northern Michigan. Deer, beaver, mink, muskrat, a dozen different species of waterfowl, and many song, shore, and marsh birds are present.

The area occupies an elongate, shallow depression lying immediately west of the barrier sandbeach along Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay shoreline. There are three distinct habitats: a wide expanse of open water, an extensive area of marshland, and a mixed hardwood forest located along the western boundary. The area also includes examples of the very rare oak barren and lakeplain wet prairie natural communities.

Thousands of waterfowl use the area every spring and fall. Many species of waterfowl and marsh birds nest in the area, including such rare Michigan nesters as the ruddy duck, redhead duck, and yellow-headed blackbird. In addition, the area of mixed hardwood is often alive with warblers and other migratory songbirds in the spring.

The significance of the area was recognized by the Sauks and Chippewa Indians who used it quite heavily as a hunting and camping ground. Prior to State acquisition, the area was a private hunting club and in 1976, the United States Department of Interior designated Tobico Marsh as a Registered Natural Landmark because of its exceptional value to illustrate the nation's natural heritage.

Its large size, balance between open water and marsh vegetation, variety of aquatic plant species, lack of disturbance, and use by waterfowl all combine to make Tobico Marsh one of the finest freshwater marshes in the Great Lakes region.