Gibraltar Bay Unit of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

The Grosse Ile Nature Area

History of Nature Area

This 40.5-acre marsh and upland area was previously a Navy seaplane base (1927) and also a NIKE missile base (1954 to 1963). In 1972 the Defense Department turned this site over to the Environmental Protection Agency for use as a wetlands research area. In April of 1990, at the center of the property, six acres of meadowland were still completely covered with pavement and huge steel doors were lying on the ground. Underground there were three large vaults each containing a NIKE missile. In 1990, the doors were removed, the cement was hauled away, and Nature, with a little help from man, could once again flourish. In May of 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") granted stewardship of the area to the Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy. In 2009 the Nature Area was made part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. The Conservancy is here to protect and assist Nature in reclaiming this area.

The Grosse Ile Nature & Land Conservancy is dedicated to this reclamation project. Its Vision is one of safekeeping Grosse Ile land and water resources for future generations.

This Nature Area is a unique blend of wetland, marsh, woods and a transitional prairie. Because of the diversity of the land, flora and fauna, it is an exceptionally rich area for study. The variety of aquatic birds is a delight to watch and catalog. This is truly a community project with local teachers and naturalists helping to blaze the trails and identify plants and animals. Scout Troops and local school children have aided in cutting paths, spreading wood chips and building steps. Local businesses often donate equipment, effort and supplies for other Scout Projects such as tables and benches.

There is still much to do as we try to return the white clover meadow back to a prairie filled with native grasses and wildflowers. Watching the natural succession as the various native plants species attempt to reclaim their former dominance will be an exciting time for both professional and amateur botanist alike. Children should always be able to find new and interesting experiences as Nature proceeds through the various seasons completing its tasks.

The Grosse Ile Nature Area is a volunteer project of the Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy in cooperation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

For its work at the Nature Area, now a part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the Conservancy was awarded a Community Service Award for outstanding commitment and service from the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and the 2004 Environmental Achievement Award from the Environmental Management Association.

Holding the awards are Doug Thiel (left) and Bruce Jones (right)