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Awesome Mitten’s Guide to Exploring Seney National Wildlife Refuge

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge is the ideal place to relax, watch the sunrise or sunset, and enjoy the wildlife that’s around every part of this forest and wetland area along the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula.

Within the refuge are two areas — the Stangmoor Bog National Natural Landmark and the Seney Wilderness area, both of which are picturesque and ecoclinal diverse and have some of the most stunning protected areas in the state.

Spanning more than 95,212 acres along M-77 and M-28, it is a very remote, secluded location with amazing experiences for the whole family.

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Seney National Wildlife Refuge | photo via nature_in_fokus

About the Seney National Wildlife Refuge

A combination of waterways, wetlands, and forests, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge was first established in 1935. Its goal was to create a safe place for migratory birds and other wildlife to live, an important need at the time because the region was developing quickly.

Aggressive Logging Creates Devastation

When it was first established, the area looked much different than it does today. It was devastated by an over-aggressive logging industry. The land was burned and ditched over time until it was drained of natural reserves. It was even cultivated for some time.

Yet, what locals learned over time was that the soils were not a good place for any type of agriculture, so nature took over. At the turn of the century, the area was desolate and void for humans.

The Wetlands Come Back to Life

The Civilian Conservation Corps went to work in the 1930s to support the natural return of this area by rebuilding and expanding the wetland drains. Its goal was to extend the ability to control the wetlands, making them larger.

Over the coming years, the area came back to life, and the area was designated as a refuge. It spans the east and central portions of the Upper Peninsula and is not far from Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

Wildlife Thrive in the Refuge

Today, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge is filled with numerous bird types and is a critical component of the region’s ecosystem. In particular, It has long been designed and supported as a space for maintaining bird life.

Yet, many other animals are lurking here too, including black bears, mice, trumpeter swans in some of the wetlands, and even bald eagles nested high up in the densely wooded areas.

Of the over 95,000 acres that make up the refuge, 25,150 acres of that space are dedicated to the Seney Wilderness area where these animals thrive.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge-Germfask
Seney National Wildlife Refuge | photo via instagramdetroit

Things to Do at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Though it may seem like a simple natural space, there are many reasons to visit this refuge. Over 88,000 visitors make their way to the area each year. There are a number of activities and areas of wonder to explore during your visit.

Take an Auto Tour

There are two distinct vehicle tours to take when visiting the area. You can choose between them, or make time to do both!

Marshland Wildlife Drive

This is a 7-mile excursion open from mid-May to mid-October depending on conditions. You can take this one-way auto tour at any time, from sunrise to sunset. Along the route, you will see portions of wetlands and denser areas of forests.

There are also several observation decks so that you can pull over and watch the wildlife, waterways, and stretches of forest in front of you. It’s common to see ring-necked ducks, bald eagles, muskrats, and loons in this area.

Fishing Loop

This trip is about a 3.5-mile add-on to the Marshland Wildlife Drive. It’s one of the better ways to see more of the diversity of the region and is open only through September.

In October, the area is sectioned off to allow migrating birds to have a safe and quiet place for resting during their fall migration patterns. Along the Fishing Loop, it’s common to see snapping turtles, sandhill cranes, and beavers.

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Seney National Wildlife Refuge | photo via jaredles

Enjoy Some Birding

Birding is one of the most common reasons to visit the Seney National Wildlife Refuge since it is home to over 200 species — including the yellow rail and black-backed woodpecker, some of the most difficult birds to find in the wild.

The Whitefish Point Unit is a secluded 53-acre tract of land that has the most significant concentration of migrating birds. Depending on the time of year, you may catch a glimpse of raptors, waterbirds, and passerines as they travel across Lake Superior.

This particular region is recognized as being critically important, not just in Michigan but globally for the support it provides these birds.

Get Into a Boat

Both motorized and non-motorized boats can be used in the refuge, though restrictions apply.

Motorized Boating

The only area where you can use a motorized boat is along the Manistique River. This river runs through the central Upper Peninsula area and stretches some 71 miles in total.

It’s a good place to fish for Northern Pike, large and smallmouth bass, and rock bass. It’s not difficult to find 40-pound muskies too.

Non-motorized Boating

With non-motorized boats, you can explore the Manistique River. If you plan to paddle, stop at one of the outfitters in Germfask Michigan to rent a boat. They also offer shuttle services.

Note: No overnight camping is allowed in the refuge, so it’s only possible to boat during daylight hours. Also, you cannot take any type of boat or flotation device into the refuge pools.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Seney National Wildlife Refuge | photo via mimichiganphotos

Enjoy Some Cross-Country Skiing

In the Upper Peninsula, winter becomes quite cold and snowy, creating ideal conditions for cross-country skiing. Skiers are welcome to break a trail anywhere they would like to in the refuge.

If you are looking for a slow-and-easy experience, check out the Northern Hardwoods Cross-country Ski Area. This is a designated area with about 10 miles of groomed trails because conditions make that possible. You can find the area near Germfask Michigan.

You can do the same with snowshoeing. Set out, and have some fun anywhere in the refuge, exception on the groomed ski trails. It is not ideal to go across the pools, though, because they can have very shallow ice.

Enjoy a Ranger-Led Program

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge offers an array of ranger-led programs each year. They can be a fun way to spot wildlife and get more insightful information about the geological conditions of the region. Check with the local U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for available programs before you go.

Run or Bike the Trails

There are over 12 miles of trails throughout the main portion of the refuge. You will also find trails along Robinson Road and Show Pool Shelters. You can use them throughout the year.

It’s common to see other hikers, runners, bird-watchers, and photographers along these trails. It’s quite a peaceful experience too.

  • Otter Run Trail is a 1.8-mile trail with a solid surface and an average grade of 3%. It’s great for biking, hiking, finding a spot to paint, or cross-country skiing. It’s dog friendly as well.
  • Bear Hollow Loop Trail is a 1.1-mile trail that’s groomed during the winter months with a firm-hard surface. It has an 8% grade, making it more challenging. And, it is a great location for foraging wild edibles and watching wildlife.
  • Another year-round trail, Lower Goose Pen Trail is just under 2 miles and is a firm-surface path with a 3% average grade. It’s a more accessible trail, making it a good option for kids, dog-walking, and birding.
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Seney National Wildlife Refuge | photo via czmommarx

FAQs About the Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Is hunting allowed at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge?

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge allows for migratory bird hunting, big game hunting, and upland game hunting because it is one of the most diverse and desirable hunting regions in the country.

About 75,000 acres of land is open to hunting, though ATVs and baiting are not allowed.

Is geocaching allowed at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge?

Traditional forms of geocaching are not allowed at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. In the traditional form, some type of treasure is buried in the area.

However, earth caching, also called virtual geocaching, is allowable. This is a great way to find cultural sites in the region.

Are there harvest limits for those looking for edible foods at the Refuge?

Up to 1 cup per person per day is allowable for all seeds and leaves at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Mushroom and wildberry foraging are allowable up to 5 pounds per person per day.

Antlers are a commonly sought-after treasure here too, and each person is allowed two antlers per day. Keep in mind that other restrictions may apply.

Is camping allowed at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge?

Camping is only allowed in select areas during the rifle season for deer, which runs from mid-November to the beginning of December. You may need a permit to do so.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge | photo via disciplemama

Explore the Beauty of Nature at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge is a stunning place to visit and explore. While people are welcome to explore it, it’s a very important ecological space for birds and other wildlife in the region.

It’s a diverse area that can easily become a favorite destination for those traveling through the Upper Peninsula. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, the Upper Peninsula offers a plethora of experiences for all ages.

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