Huron National Wildlife Refuge

Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan.


Eight small islands, totaling 147 acres, make up Huron National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is located just three miles off the south shore of Lake Superior in Marquette County, Michigan. The refuge was established in 1905 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife, especially the herring gull, which had large nesting colonies on the islands. These early bird sanctuaries were vital for several species of birds, including the herring gull, whose populations had been drastically reduced by plume hunters and egg collectors in the 1800s and early 1900s. All islands are closed to the public except for Lighthouse Island. 

Lighthouse Island is the second largest island at 40-acres and the only one open to the public. In 1868, a lighthouse was built on the island to aid in navigation, and in 1972, the light was automated eliminating the need for a manned station. Today, the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

McIntyre Island is the largest of the islands at 77 acres and supports the most diverse habitats. Cattle Island (12 acres) and Gull Rock (15 acres) were the sites of large herring gull colonies. The four largest islands all support some boreal forest. In addition, McIntyre Island has a few small patches of sphagnum bog. The remaining four islands make up only three acres and are little more than granite outcroppings. While the nameless bare rock islands are small, rising just 10-50 feet out of the water, Lighthouse and McIntyre Islands rise 160 feet above Lake Superior. There are no permanent streams on any of the islands, but there are a few calderas on the largest islands that collect and hold rainwater. 

The granite upthrusts that make up the islands are billions of years old. Covered in glaciers during the last ice age, the islands would have been little more than bare rocks and thin soils when the glaciers retreated. Scars, or glacial striations, left by glaciers as they pushed rocks are still plainly seen embedded in the bedrock of the islands. The plants and animals inhabiting the islands have found their way there over the last 9,000 years. 

Due to the remote nature and primitive quality of these islands, they have been designated as a wilderness area. 

Nearby Activities


The only access to Huron National Wildlife Refuge is by boat. Interested parties can use the boat landings in Big Bay or L’Anse, Michigan. 

Additional Information