You may want to call it Fayetteville, but it is really Fayette Historic State Park located on the shores of Big Bay De Noc in Lake Michigan.
Fayette Historic State Park
Our first stop on our Northern Michigan Fall Color tour was Fayette Historic State Park. The park is located 17.4 miles from Garden Corners off of U.S. 2. Head south on M-183, through the cute little town of Garden and you can’t miss it. Like a lot of the remote areas of Michigan, cell service is tricky. Be sure to download your map ahead of time.
Our exploration of Fayette Historic State Park begins in the visitor center. While the gift shop is closed due to the pandemic, you can still explore the visitor center and park. The interpretive display is worth a few minutes of your time. It provides some history about Fayette while highlighting areas upon a large diorama of town.
Be sure to take a look at the informative display about the Northern White Cedar. These trees make their home on top of and along the side of the limestone cliffs that lie next to Fayette. These slow-growing trees are ancient. Some are estimated to be over 1,400 years old.
If you are like us, after seeing the diorama in the visitor center, you may expect Fayette Historic State Park to be huge. While the park is nearly 800 acres total with over 5 miles of trails to explore, the main portion of historic buildings is all within an easy and accessible distance.
In its prime, Fayette (not Fayetteville) boasted a population of 500 and was one of the most productive iron-smelting operations in the area. The Jackson Iron Company picked this spot on Big Bay De Noc for its blast furnaces. The town of Fayette (named after Fayette Brown) sprouted up around the blast furnaces in 1867.
Today Fayette is a historic ghost town. There are 20 buildings including charcoal kilns, machine shops, warehouses, a hotel, and a few homes. The homes were residences for engineers, skilled laborers, a doctor, and managers. Even on a blustery fall day, they were intriguing as you imagine life here at that time.
Laborers Alley and a walk in the woods
None of the original laborer’s cabins survived. However, they have recreated one based on cabins which had been built nearby during this time period. Evidently, this area near the water’s edge known as Laborers Alley created quite a stir back in the day. Reading from the interpretive sign: “In 1879, The Escanaba Iron Port reported, ‘Fayette is not a model of cleanliness, and it is difficult to keep everything in apple pie order, but there is no excuse for that alley.’”
After spending some time looking at the various displays, we headed out for a short walk along the limestone cliffs. The trail is wide and easy to follow. You quickly enter the cedar forest where some trees are turned at odd angles. This reminded us of the Native American trail marker trees and the one we visited near Traverse City. The trail offers nice views of Snail Shell Harbor and Fayette.
Planning your visit to Fayette Historic State park
Fayette Historic State Park is a unique slice of Michigan history. It makes for a nice stop along U.S. 2 as you make your way west. While in the area, don’t forget to check out Kitch-Iti-Kipi. Fayette Historic State Park offers overnight stays at the campground and at slips in the harbor. If you are looking for a home base with great food, then head over to Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn in Curtis. They will make you feel right at home in this beautiful section of Michigan.
Feel free to wander in our gallery which includes images from the first part of our Northern Michigan Fall Color Tour. Enjoy the images. Contact us regarding any use.
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