My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Fayette State Park and the Garden Peninsula


There are several points of interest in the area of Fayette State Park that I would like to explore. First is the state park itself, Fayette Historic State Park houses a Historic Townsite, a representation of a once bustling industrial community.

Fayette was once one of the Upper Peninsula’s most productive iron-smelting operations. Fayette grew up around two blast furnaces, a large dock and several charcoal kilns after the Civil War. Nearly 500 residents, many immigrating from Canada, the British Isles, and northern Europe, lived in and near the town that existed to make pig iron. During 24 years of operation Fayette’s blast furnaces produced a total of 229,288 tons of iron, using local hardwood forests for fuel and quarrying limestone from the bluffs to purify the iron ore. When the charcoal iron market began to decline, the Jackson Iron Company closed its Fayette smelting operations in 1891. Another event leading to the downfall of the Jackson Iron Company was the use of the hardwoods and limestone to purify the Iron, causing the hardwoods to be destroyed. This was the main source for purifying the iron and therefore led to the decline of the Jackson Iron Company. After shutting down the smelting operations many residents left Fayette in search of something more, and some residents stayed and used the land for farming, but eventually the town died off and was left abandoned.

The state has restored around twenty of the buildings that were once part of the community, and it is now maintained as a living museum showing what life was like in this town in the late 19th century.

OK, there’s the ghost town, enough reason to go. But, I also found photos of limestone cliffs, rock formations, and areas like the Pictured Rocks in the area as well. It is the Big Bay De Noc area, and while somewhat sheltered from the waves of the Big Lake, it can still be rough enough that I won’t be able to depend on the weather cooperating every day.

I doubt if I will camp in the state park itself, they tend to be too crowded for my tastes, however, there is the Portage Bay State Forest Campground nearby, on the other side of the Garden Peninsula. It offers some hiking trails as well as the trail system in the state park.

Another possible day trip by kayak is a trip to the Poverty Island Lighthouse, or what’s left of it. It has been abandoned for decades and is falling apart.

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