The Upper Peninsula of the Great Lakes State is known for its natural beauty, especially in Garden, Michigan, where history can be explored right on the shore.

Buildings at Fayette Historic State Park in Garden, Michigan (photo by Tyler Leipprandt)

Fayette Historic State Park sits along the southern side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in an area known as Big Bay de Noc. The scenic landmark covers 711 acres, is accessible by car or boat and lets visitors step back in time to explore the site of what was once a booming industrial community. 

During the 19th century, the town of Fayette produced pig-iron ingots that were integral to the development of railroads and steel. Fayette Brown, a then-agent for Cleveland’s Jackson Iron Co., chose the site for its unmatched natural resources. Wood from the town’s surrounding forests was burned to fuel furnaces, while dolomite from the bordering white limestone cliffs purified the iron ore that would be transported through the harbor. 

Although the Jackson Iron Co. halted its smelting business in 1891, this industrial town’s story survived after the state of Michigan acquired the site in 1959. The white limestone cliffs, while closed to the public, hold what are believed to be 1,400-year-old cedar trees, making this Michigan state park home to one of the nation’s oldest living forests. 

Today, visitors can admire 20 preserved structures that tell the story of Fayette, including a hotel, machine shop and town hall. Travelers can also walk through an enormous blast furnace complex that once fueled the town’s iron-smelting operation (except the sections that still have remnants from the last time the furnace was fired in 1891). History buffs can enhance their experience with a trip to the park’s visitor center or by scheduling a guided tour, available mid-June through August. 

Those travelling by boat can dock at the marina equipped with 15 transient slips. On-site amenities like picnic tables and access to restrooms and showers make for an ideal day trip or camping overnight. 4785 II Rd., Garden, Michigan 49835, 906/644-2603,