The Garden Peninsula: Fayette State Park, exploring Lake Superior State Forest, and Kitch-iti-kipi


For the second half of our July UP expedition with my son Bryce and his friend Matt, we explored the Garden Peninsula on the north shore of Lake Michigan. It is said that the Garden Peninsula got its name because Native Americans living in the western UP would travel here to plant their gardens because of its rich soils and favorable weather. Farming is still very important in the Garden Peninsula especially wind farming. 

We camped at the Bay Ridge RV Park and will include footage of and information about the campground at the end of this video. All the footage and photos in this video are by me and the music is by my daughter Aspen. If you like the video, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel.


The Geology of The Garden Peninsula

The Garden Peninsula extends 22 miles southwestward into Lake Michigan. The peninsula is part of the Niagara Escarpment that stretches from New York to Illinois. This hard rock layer was laid down along the shore of an ancient sea. The glaciers and erosion that gave Michigan its mitten-like shape also stripped away the surrounding, softer layers leaving the limestone Niagara escarpment, which is named after its most famous feature, Niagara Falls. It is also the underlying foundation of the Bruce Peninsula in northern Lake Huron, the Garden Peninsula and Door Peninsula in northern Lake Michigan and islands too numerous to name here. 


Fayette State Park and 

It was partly the limestone cliffs that attracted the Jackson Iron Co in the late 1860s to establish a smelting plant on the Garden Peninsula. They found an excellent harbor that had an abundance of raw materials including the limestone that was needed to support the smelting process and named the site Fayette in honor of their general manager, Fayette Brown. Harvesting hardwood trees needed to produce charcoal to fire the furnaces for the smelting operation spawned a logging industry and farming in the lands cleared by the loggers. Although smelting ended in 1891, logging and farming still flourish today as well as fishing and tourism. 

The State of Michigan acquired Fayette in 1959. Beyond the 711-acre park’s 1880s’ town site, there is a mile-long sandy beach, playground, picnic area, marina, five miles of hiking trails and a 61 site semi-modern campground. The historic town site includes a modern visitor center, 20 historic structures, exhibits and walking tours that interpret the town’s industrial past. 

If you visit the area, besides touring the State Park, also visit the Garden Peninsula Historical Museum in the city of Garden. Located in a former schoolhouse, the museum displays items from the peninsula's rich history including lumbering, fishing, and the people of the cities of Garden and Fayette. This museum is a good complement to visiting the Fayette plant and city. The state park does a great job preserving the town with interpretive signs and the buildings furnished like they were in the 19th century. However, the museum in Garden adds even more to understanding the area with newspapers, photos, and antiques on display from the area.

Here are some videos and photos of the museum and Fayette State Park. This segment starts with the Garden Peninsula Historical Museum, then has footage of the Fayette State Park Visitor's Centre Diorama that shows the site at the peak of its operations (I especially liked the two-story outhouse off the hotel) and then we end the segment with footage taken while walking around the historic site and buildings of Fayette. Enjoy!


4-Wheeling in Lake Superior State Forest

The Garden Peninsula today is mostly agricultural and forest lands as well as an important area for wind farming.  I was amazed at all the white-tailed deer we saw while driving around the peninsula. Apparently, this area is part of the UP's low snow belt. Consequently, the Garden's deer population doesn't have to deal with the harsh winters they get just a little further up north. In fact, the southern part of the peninsula is known to be a Deer Wintering Complex. Many deer from further north will migrate to and winter on the Garden Peninsula which is 20% owned by the State of Michigan. Much of the eastern shore of the Peninsula is mostly undeveloped and part of the State Forest system. Wanting to get off the pavement for a while, I drove our Jeep down some dirt roads and two tracks taking in the sights. 

Then, after studying the topographical map of the peninsula and the seasonal forest road system that traversed the state forest lands, I spotted a place called Sucker Lake on the eastern Lake Michigan shoreline. I asked the boys if they were interested in an adventure to find Sucker Lake and they said with a name like Sucker, how could we not go looking for it. So, off the pavement we went. Here are some video and photos of our four-wheelin adventure including a phone booth in the middle of nowhere which obviously was a gag for any suckers heading this way. We wondered after driving for quite a while if Sucker Lake would end up being a gag too. Watch on and find out. 


Bay Ridge RV Park

We camped at Bay Ridge RV Park which was a fine base of operations for exploring the Garden Peninsula. Built in 2016, the park was still pretty new, and the modern bathrooms, showers, and laundry facilities were spotless. They have about 50 RV sites that overlook Big Bay De Noc. Every site has full water and sewer hookups, electrical service, a fire pit and a picnic table. A short walk down a path will take you to the waterfront where there is a sandy beach, a restaurant called The Dock and a marina. This is a small, quiet campground surrounded by farmlands. Well, it was quiet most of the time. On most weekends there is a band which you can listen to from the convenience of your campsite, but don't worry the bar quiets down pretty early and you'll enjoy a peaceful northern Michigan evening. Here is some video footage of Bay Ridge RV Park.


Kitch-iti-kipi, Palms Book State Park

On our way home from the Garden Peninsula, we stopped at Palms Book State Park which is near the northeast end of the peninsula and along our way back to the Mackinac Bridge. Palms Book was acquired by the state of Michigan in 1926 and contains (Kitch it a Kipee), Michigan's largest natural freshwater spring. 

Kitch-iti-kipi is said to have many meanings in the language of the indigenous peoples that lived in the area including "The Great Water", "The Blue Sky I See", and "Bubbling Spring" and "Big Cold Spring." We arrived early and found a place to park our Jeep and camper, but by the time we left, the parking lot was pretty full. There was also a much longer line waiting for the raft when we disembarked then when we arrived. 

So, if you are going to visit here in the summer, I would recommend coming early. The spring is a sinkhole that is connected by an underground stream to nearby Indian Lake. It was created when the top layer of limestone dissolved away and collapsed into a cave containing the underground stream. In this 40 foot deep pool, more than 10,000 gallons of water erupt per minute from the spring. The water maintains a constant 45 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and very rarely freezes over during the winter. 

In the crystal clear waters of the spring, ancient tree trunks with mineral encrusted branches can be seen and sands billow from fissures in the limestone base. You can also see huge lake, brown and brook trout as well as an occasional yellow perch and other species that move between the Big Spring and Indian Lake.

Although you can see the spring from a viewing platform on the shore, the best way to experience it is on the large floating raft. Visitors can look over the sides of the raft or in the open center for viewing the spring's bottom. The roof of the raft allows you to clearly see the fish in the cold water below without the glare from the sun. The raft is free to ride and guided by a large metal cable, and propelled by a big wheel that one of the visitors on the raft must turn to move the raft slowly forward, and then back to the dock. I say slowly, but as Bryce and Matt were turning the wheel to return us to shore, fellow raft riders were joking about the wake they were making in the spring. The ride is normally 10 to 15 minutes long, unless the boys are working the wheel. 

This is a beautiful spot worth a visit if you are in the Garden Peninsula area. Thanks for watching our video. If you found it interesting, please subscribe to our channel. Keep wandering and stay curious friends!


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