The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a 9,427 acre (38 km²) National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is located in the central portion of the lower peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan, approximately 25 miles (40 km) south of the Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron and five miles (8 km) south of the city of Saginaw. It was established in 1953 to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl.
Known locally as the Shiawassee Flats, the refuge lies in the Saginaw Bay watershed, historically one of the largest and most productive wetland ecosystems in Michigan. Four rivers - the Tittabawassee, Flint, Cass, and Shiawassee - converge on the refuge to form the Saginaw River.
Over 265 species of birds have been documented on the refuge, including raptors, shore and wading birds, and more than 100 songbird species. Shiawassee Refuge is designated as a United States Important Bird Area (IBA) for its global significance to migratory waterfowl. It is also one of six focus areas designated by the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Basin Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
During peak populations in late October, up to 25,000 Canada geese and 40,000 ducks are present. A great diversity of other wildlife associated with freshwater marshes and floodplain forests are also found here.
The area was an attractive hunting and gathering area for many early cultures and later Native American tribes, like the Odawa and Ojibwa. Ducks and geese flocked to this vast area of wetlands and rivers. Other animals, including otter, fisher, marten, elk, moose, and bear were also found here.
The Flats received little human impact until the late 1800s, when the lumber industry expanded to this area. Coal was mined in the area from the early 1900s to the late 1930s. In 1903, farmers began converting the land for crops and, by 1950, a system of pumps, drainage tile, ditches and dikes were in place, making this an extensive agricultural area.
The refuge is authorized to expand its present boundaries by 7,500 acres (30 km²) along the Tittabawassee, Shiawassee, and Cass rivers from willing sellers.