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Learn About Michigan's Wetlands

A lush wetland with clumps of green reeds scattered across the water. A power line runs in the background
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Learn About Michigan's Wetlands

Most people are familiar with the cattail or lily pad wetlands found in areas with standing water, but wetlands also can be grassy meadows, shrubby fields, or mature forests. Many wetland areas have only a high ground water table and standing water may not be visible. Types of wetlands include deciduous swamps, wet meadows, emergent marshes, conifer swamps, wet prairies, shrub-scrub swamps, fens, and bogs.

This page offers resources about wetlands, including definitions, how to identify, mitigation and restoration, regulations, a list of frequently asked questions, and a Wetlands Map Viewer.

Bog wetland at Waterloo State Recreation Area

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are land with enough water under normal circumstances to support wetland plants or aquatic life.

Wetlands are usually referred to as a bog, swamp, or marsh.

Learn why wetlands are important
Image of a wetland inventory map produced by WLSU.

Are there wetlands on my property?

Wetlands are areas where land and water meet. Whether water is slightly above or below the surface of the land, the one thing that makes the difference when identifying whether or not an area is a wetland is the presence of water.

Land does not have to be wet all of the time in order to be defined as a wetland. In some cases, it will not be immediately obvious that a wetland exists. The presence of water will, however, cause a number of physical, chemical and biological characteristics to develop. These characteristics can be used to identify and locate wetlands.

Get the resources to find out
A low lying wetland with trees and tufts of grass emerging from the water

How are wetlands identified?

Identification of wetlands using the federal method involves three factors: how much wetland plants there are, hydric (wetland) soils, and signs of hydrology (presence of water). 

The presence of water (the hydrology) is necessary at certain times of the year for the development of a wetland. The timing, frequency, and level of saturation each year influences what kind of plants can grow in an area and the type of chemical and physical reactions which occur in the soil. 

Learn the technical definitions
View of a completed and established wetland mitigation site.

Wetland Mitigation

The purpose of "compensatory wetland mitigation" (commonly referred to as just "wetland mitigation") is the replacement of unavoidably lost wetland resources with man-made or restored wetlands.

The goal of wetland mitigation is replacing the functions and public benefits of the lost wetland as much as possible.

Technical details of wetland mitigation

Wetlands Map Viewer

This map is intended to be used as one tool to assist in identifying wetlands and provides only potential and approximate location of wetlands and wetland conditions. EGLE produced this map from the data obtained from other agencies or organizations.

This map is not intended to be used to determine the specific locations and jurisdictional boundaries of wetland areas subject to regulation under Part 303, Wetlands Protection, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended.

User Guide

Open Wetlands Map Viewer

Frequently Asked Questions

  • In accordance with Part 303, wetlands are regulated if they are any of the following:

    • Connected to one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair.
    • Located within 1,000 feet of one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair.
    • Connected to an inland lake, pond, river, or stream.
    • Located within 500 feet of an inland lake, pond, river or stream.
    • Not connected to one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair, or an inland lake, pond, stream, or river, but are more than 5 acres in size.
    • Not connected to one of the Great Lakes or Lake St. Clair, or an inland lake, pond, stream, or river, and less than 5 acres in size, but EGLE has determined that these wetlands are essential to the preservation of the state's natural resources and has notified the property owner.

    The law requires that persons planning to conduct certain activities in regulated wetlands apply for and receive a permit from the state before beginning the activity. A permit is required from the state for the following:

    • Deposit or permit the placing of fill material in a wetland.
    • Dredge, remove, or permit the removal of soil or minerals from a wetland.
    • Construct, operate, or maintain any use or development in a wetland.
    • Drain surface water from a wetland.
  • Here are some clues that wetland might be present:

    • The ground is soggy or has standing water, even for just part of the year.
    • The soils are black or peaty.
    • The property is lower than surrounding land.
    • The land is flat without any grade changes.
    • The trees are tipped over due to shallow roots.
    • The property is near a pond, lake or stream.
    • The property failed a perc test or an engineered septic system is required.
    • The property is tax reverted.
  • Does information already exist for this property on the presence of wetlands, such as:

    • Are there wetland reports or delineations, or EGLE letters, permits, or denials for this property? A search of Site Map Explorer in the EGLE database MiEnviro may help.
    • Has a perc-test been done? If so, what were the results?
    • Information from owners or neighbors about standing water, flooding, drainage, muddy spots, etc.
  • EGLE offers information on our web sites to help get you started including:

    • Maps of potential wetland areas on the Wetlands Map Viewer. This is a good place to start to get an idea what might be on the property. This map does not identify actual wetland, boundaries, or the need for a permit, so an on-site visit by a wetland professional is needed.
    • A list of Private Consultants that you may hire to identify presence of wetlands and if they are regulated.
    • EGLE Staff Contacts - Look for the Land/Water Permitting Staff Map. Staff for your County may have knowledge of the property and/or area, but cannot tell you for sure if wetland is present without a site visit.
  • The following EGLE services are available and detailed on the Wetlands Protection Program web site:

    • Pre-Application Meeting is an official request to meet with EGLE staff to discuss a project and determine if a permit will be necessary.
    • Wetland Identification Program offers wetland delineation services that includes a site visit to identify wetland boundaries and regulatory status.