Fayette State Park, once a bustling company town, is now arguably Michigan’s most unique state park. This well-preserved ghost town sits next to a gorgeous natural harbor and towering limestone cliffs. It’s as much an attraction for it’s natural beauty as it is for it’s interesting history.
Founded in 1867 by the Jackson Iron Company, Fayette was established to manufacture pig iron, a brittle form of iron. The site was chosen because of the abundance of limestone and hardwood nearby, two key ingredients in the pig iron manufacturing process. During its twenty four years of existence, a total of 229,288 tons of iron were produced here!
During its heyday, several hundred people lived and worked at Fayette. A hotel, company office, company store, machine shop, opera house and many of the original buildings still stand today and are open to the public.
Present Day Use
Present day visitors to Fayette are welcomed by a modern information center that houses an information desk, a large model of what the town used to look like, a souvenir store and restrooms. Guided tours are offered every half hour and are well worth your time as the roughly twenty minute tour will give you a great idea of what Fayette was all about.
The guided tour ends in the middle of the historic town site where you’re then free to explore twenty or so restored buildings on your own, have a picnic lunch next to the natural harbor or go for a hike up on the limestone bluff, which offer an excellent view of the town.
Fishing / Boating
There’s a nice launch boat launch in the park that allows access to Snail Shell Harbor and Little Bay de Noc. It’s a hard-surface ramp with a dock and sufficient water depth to accommodate most trailerable boats. A state park entrance permit is required.
According to Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, authors of Paddle Michigan (2001): The kayaking around Fayette is suitable for novice paddlers, provided they limit their exploration to the park shoreline and immediate environs. The township sits on a curling spit of land between Sand Bay, which has a pleasant beach area backed by cedar, pine, and hardwood forest, and Snail Shell Harbor, a tranquil little cove guarded by tremendous limestone bluffs. You can check out both areas-and receive fine views of the village itself to boot-in a single leisurely afternoon of paddling. (p. 185)
A large sandy beach on the shore of Sand Bay makes a good spot for swimming or sunbathing. A foot trail connects the beach to the Fayette campground.
Fayette features five miles of hiking trails that include paved walkways around the village and gravel trails that lead up and around the adjacent limestone bluff. A short hike up the hill across Snail Shell harbor leads to a scenic overlook that affords a splendid view of the village.
A detailed map of the Fayette trail system is available here.
Places to Stay
For a listing of lodging options near Fayette, click here.
Sixty-one campsites are available at the Fayette Semi-Modern campground. All sites have electrical service (some with 50 amp service). Other amenities include vault toilets and potable water. There are no showers.
Within walking distance of the Fayette state park campground (and just a short drive or slightly longer walk from the town site) sits Sherry’s Port Bar. Sherry’s offers a family friendly atmosphere and a full menu, including an all you can eat whitefish fish fry on Friday’s. (4424 II Ln Garden, MI 49835 – 906.644.2545)
On the second Saturday of August the annual Heritage Day is held is held at Fayette. The event celebrates the heyday of Fayette as a bustling iron smelting company town. Activities for the day include period displays, food, and music.
Hours for Fayette State Park
Mid-May through Mid-June: 9 AM to 5 PM eastern time
Labor Day through mid-October: 9 AM to 7 PM eastern time
Address: 4785 II Road Garden, MI 49835
Phone: (906) 644-2603