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Portage Marsh



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Portage Marsh

Portage Marsh

Hiking Portage Marsh Canoe or kayak Portage Marsh


From Escanaba, take Highway M-35 south to Portage Point Lane. Turn left (east) and drive to the parking lot at the end of the road.


About 600 acres.


Portage Marsh is a 600-acre coastal wetland complex on Lake Michigan in Delta County. It is bounded on the north by the City of Escanaba and on the south by Portage Point. Habitat includes open water, cattail marsh, wet meadow, shrub thickets, sand beach, inter-dunal pools, and a creek mouth.

The Lake Michigan shoreline and Portage Point (a narrow sand spit that extends easterly nearly two miles into the lake) form a shallow, protected bay known as Portage Bay. This bay is nestled within Lake Michigan's Little Bay de Noc, which itself is part of Green Bay. Portage Marsh is well protected from wave action because the lakeside opening of the marsh faces east, the least common wind direction. Portage Creek empties into the protected interior of the marsh creating a small delta of shallow water where sand, debris, and nutrients are deposited. The creek itself is lined with large willow trees.

Portage Bay varies in depth from mere inches to five feet, depending on Lake Michigan water levels, and to a lesser extent, wind direction. This bay is ringed by a large, rather dense stand of cattails. Channels and pools are sometimes present in these cattails, but due to low water in recent years the cattail stand has been dry and has become dense and nearly impenetrable. The marsh complex has some island-like knolls and ridges that are high enough to support woody vegetation. Except for the lake-ward east end, the marsh is nearly encircled by residential development and paved roadways (Lakeshore Drive within Escanaba, Highway M-35, and Portage Point Lane). About one-half mile of raised dike, originating at the parking lot, provides an elevated foot-trail through cattail marsh and shrub thicket. This dike affords an excellent view of Portage Bay and supplies easy access to the sand beach on the south side of Portage Point. Canoes, duck boats, and other small watercraft can be launched into Portage Bay at the graveled parking lot, but there are no developed launch facilities, toilets, or other amenities.

Wildlife Viewing:

Because Portage Marsh is actually a complex of several types of wetland habitat, including lake, creek, marsh, wet meadow, and shrub swamp, many different types of wildlife adapt to these habitat conditions. Examples of the broad wildlife groups that reside here include ducks, shorebirds, wading birds, gulls, terns, rails, fur-bearing mammals, frogs, and turtles. Several state-threatened species are commonly observed in the marsh including bald eagles and Caspian and common terns.

The wetland area along Portage Point offers a protected oasis for waterfowl during the spring and fall migrations and for some summer resident birds. April and October are generally the best months for viewing migrating waterfowl. The sand beach along the point provides shorebird-viewing opportunities. The shorebird migration is not as predictable as the waterfowl migration, but at times it is excellent. Besides wildlife viewing, other popular activities include walking, dog exercise, photography, swimming (on the beach side of Portage Point), environmental education, hunting, and trapping.

Facilities and Opportunities:

Trails - About one-half mile of raised dike provides an elevated, level footpath through a portion of the marsh. Portions may be handicap-accessible, but the dike was not designed as a hiking trail.

Boat Ramp - There is no developed boat ramp, but small boats and canoes can be launched into Portage Bay at the parking lot area.

Fishing - Some fishing possible (small panfish) when the Lake Michigan water levels are high, but generally the marsh is too shallow for fishing.

Hunting - Waterfowl hunting and furbearer trapping are popular in the marsh.

View/Download the map for Portage Marsh

Information courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources

Return to Delta County, Michigan Trails




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