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Michigan dnr > wildlife viewing guide > southern lower peninsula >bay city

118 Bay City State Recreation AreaSouthern Lower Peninsula

wildlife viewing  |  directions and facility information

 trail through the woods nature center sign
Photos: © Earl Wolf


marsh landscape picture
Photo: © Earl Wolf

Tobico Marsh in the Bay City State Recreation Area is one of the largest open-water marshes remaining on the Saginaw Bay, but this area contains much more than just the marsh. On a short hike you can traverse several different types of habitats; from cattail marsh, to brushy shrub areas, to upland hardwood forest. The shoreline is layered with sandy dune ridges, which once were at the water’s edge, but were left high and dry as the Bay receded over thousands of years. A boardwalk, two 40-foot observation towers, and a floating marsh dock with fixed spotting scopes offer excellent wildlife viewing along the Frank N. Andersen Trail. The Saginaw Bay Visitor Center features displays, dramatic dioramas, and a spectacular multi-image slide show. Enjoy the Field Observation Room with its wildlife feeding area, new floating dock with fixed spotting scopes in marsh, new boardwalk along the Saginaw Bay shoreline, also with fixed spotting scopes for watching shorebirds. A new rail-trail connection to the Bay City Riverwalk improves access to the park, as well as providing an alternate transportation route and travel way for wildlife.

Wildlife Viewing

look out deck
Photo: © Phil Seng

Good probability of seeing waterfowl and shorebirds almost year round. Watch for Caspian terns and black-crowned night herons, which are very common here. In May, you may see pike and carp spawning in the open water around the bridges and boardwalks along the trail. This area is an excellent funnel for migrating warblers in the spring. Bitterns are also seen here. Spend some time on the two observation towers to get a bird’s-eye view into the surrounding treetops. White-tailed deer are occasionally seen in the early morning—especially at the northern end of the trail. Hikers report regularly seeing otter, beaver, gray and red fox, coyote, and Blanding’s turtle.

Hunting is prohibited on Tobico Marsh, but is permitted on some of the outlying areas. See a property map for details.



From I-75, take Exit 168 (Beaver Road) and drive east 5 miles to the entrance of Bay City State Recreation Area. Turn left into the day use area of the park, and park at the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center. Stop at the visitor center to enjoy watching birds at the feeders inside the field observation room, or view wildlife close up through a remote hidden camera in the marsh. Stop by the information desk for information on naturalist guided programs or a map of the area.

Ownership: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (989) 667-0717

Size: 2,800 acres

Closest Town: Bay City

Weather and Driving Directions for Bay City

Plan Your Trip with travel.michigan.org!

More information can be found by visiting the DNR's site (link leads to web app allowing users to search for campgrounds, harbors, trails and more), or by conducting a Google search:


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