Huron Harbor--Impoundment

Huron Harbor--Impoundment

Huron, Ohio 44839

Also, see all the hotspots at:
Lake Erie Western Basin Important Bird Area
Huron River Birding Drive

Tips for Birding

A park along the riverside and a few other vantage points offer views of birds in the river along the way to the pier, and is worth a stop on the way out. Closer to the lake, a large semicircular bay is hemmed in by the shore, the pier, and the walls of a circular impoundment. Many birds may be seen, especially if water levels expose shallows for gulls to roost, and this is often the best place to start. Another angle on this area can be had by taking any of several streets west to a park along the shore.

Walk the pier north toward the open lake. Occasionally shorebirds are seen on the left on a sandy beach or in the wrack behind it. Raptors, including eagles, can sometimes be seen perched in larger trees in the impoundment on that side as well. Brushy areas on the west side can yield sparrows, warblers, etc., in migration, and occasionally siskins and redpolls in winter. Further along on the left side is a vast sea of unproductive Phragmites reed, punctuated with some trees. Hunters and fishers maintain trails through this dense vegetation that go to the shore of the pool inside the impoundment; they are sometimes worth following to see if shorebirds or waterfowl can be seen at close range there.

On the right hand lies the Huron River, hemmed in by the pier on one side and breakwalls on the other. Water birds of many species may be seen here in the water. Purple sandpipers are found yearly among the stones of the walls, and snowy owls are possible on the far shore in winter. The pier is easy walking as far as an elevated platform (about .2 mile). From there, one has to walk atop a flat rock wall. The footing is not too difficult in the absence of ice. Here, the pool inside the impoundment is visible on the left, the river mouth widens to the right, and the lighthouse comes into view. Flat-topped rocks end at the lighthouse. The breakwalls of the impoundment on the left are rugged walking, and the base of the lighthouse can be reached only with some exertion, especially in icy conditions. The view at this point is extensive, and birds can be numerous.

The site can be reached from US-6 (Lakeside) in downtown Huron. Turn north at the stoplight at the intersection with OH-13 and follow the river about a mile to a small parking lot at the foot of the pier.

The first half of the pier is easy walking, but negotiating the top of the breakwall past the platform can be difficult for some when dry, and for all when icy. The circular enclosure of the impoundment is rough, and not advised as a route to see inside.

Open all year during daylight hours.

Parking at the foot of the pier.

Birds of Interest

Gulls of many species can be very numerous. Diving ducks, jaegers, purple sandpipers, snowy owls, and the like are all seen here with some regularity.
Early in the season many of the winter specialties linger, and spring waterfowl migrants abound.
Shorebirding, following the takeover of the impoundment by Phragmites, has deteriorated in recent years, as has the variety of passerines: the impoundment, for example, is no longer a favored spot for sharp-tailed sparrows in the fall. All the same, Huron, as the westernmost accessible birding spot along the shore of the central basin of Lake Erie, continues to deserve a reputation as a spot where good birding can be expected. Loons, grebes, ducks, passerines in the brush—all may be expected. November brings gull numbers in six figures at times.

About this Location

Located at the terminus of North Main Street on the west bank of the Huron River, the two-third-mile long West Pier provides access to the Huron Lighthouse.

The West Pier is a jetty, which, along with the jetty on the east riverbank, helps keep the river’s shipping channel open.

Constructed in 1936, the 72-foot-tall white steel tower, the pyramidal lighthouse was one of the first electrically powered beacons on Lake Erie. The light was formerly operated by remote control from an on-shore brick station but was automated in 1972. The light can be seen over a twelve-mile radius and is maintained by the United States Coast Guard.

The Huron Spoil Site, a confined disposal facility, is located along the northern two-thirds of the pier’s west side. This approximately 68-acre containment facility may one day be a park; however, the site is currently only partially filled. The facility is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The pier and the cement foundation surrounding the lighthouse are open year-round. Both are popular sites for fishing, walking and bird watching. The southern portion of the pier is handicap accessible. The northern extent is comprised of large limestone blocks of varying heights which require an able-footed walker to traverse. There are no other amenities on site.

No restroom facilities.

Content from Ohio Ornithological Society