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Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Author: sightseeingsue (More Trip Reviews by sightseeingsue)
Date of Trip: April 2006

Every Labor Day, the bridge allows people to cross on foot. This is the only day pedestrians are allowed to cross and is known as the annual Bridge Walk. This annual walk started back in 1958 when 65 walkers participated, and now estimates of 50,000 to 65,000 eager people make the march every Labor Day. Our state's Governor always starts the walk off, with the rest following closely behind. The walk takes on average of 2 hours, and starts early at around 7am. No additional walkers are allowed past 11am. Animals (except Seeing Eye dogs) are not allowed on the walk, and port-a-potties are only found at both ends. I have yet to build up enough nerve to part-take in this walk -- maybe someday.

If you get an opportunity, take a drive across. It will be well worth the trip.

Ghost-Town At Fayette State Park

A Ghost town at a state park, and one that not only offers spectacular views of limestone cliffs off on the horizon, but also breath-taking sights of the sparkling waters of Big Bay De Noc and Lake Michigan...who would have thought. Well, that's what you get when you visit Fayette State Park in the Upper Peninsular of Michigan. Fayette State Park and Ghost Town is located just 17 miles south of US-2, between Escanaba and Manistique on the southern tip of the Garden Peninsula.

When you enter the park, you will find restrooms and a tourist information center which will provide you will historical photos, literature or guide material, and well as a big three-dimensional model display of the park that show the historic buildings that are open for observation. After the short visit inside you will be directed to doors leading outside the center to a path that will take you down a pretty steep incline. No vehicles are allowed from this point on, but I do think bikes are OK. There are benches on the way if you need to rest and wheelchairs are available for a rental fee if need be. Getting down to the Ghost town is a breeze...but the trek back-up is another story.

During its heyday back in the 1860's through 1890, around 500 folks called this place home. Jackson Iron Co. was the enterprise that manufactured charcoal pig iron for many of the steel companies that had operations on the Great Lakes, and Chicago was the recipient to most of its biggest shipments. When the charcoal iron market began to decline, Jackson Iron Company closed its doors in 1891 and this once bustling industrial town would soon become a deserted ghost town.

Today, this historic town is also a Michigan State Park, which offers around 19 to 20 restored buildings for self-touring. Around the grounds you will see homes, a town hall with post office, the superintendent's house, a dance hall, shops, as well as other artifacts just as they stood back in the late 1800s. The largest building is the coal house which housed the huge furnaces which was the heart of the operations...I definitely got a chill once inside this dark building.

The harbor called "Snail Shell Harbor" is where you can see many boats (yachts) docking for the day, the beach area is great for a little swimming, and the campground has many sites for your RVs or campers and tents. The kids will love looking for rocks on the shores or have them bring their rod and reels for a little perch fishing in the bay. I really enjoyed exploring the old buildings in the village, but think the highlight for me was my leisurely walk through a very scenic tree-lined path of the forest. Not a sound could be heard except the chirping of birds, and occasionally the sounds of gentle waves rolling in and off of Lake Michigan. What a peaceful and relaxing end to a perfect day.

When we visited in mid-August, we arrived around noon and the park was not at all crowded. We spent around 3 hours there, which seemed like an adequate amount of time for us to see everything we wanted. If you do plan on visiting, plan on doing a lot of walking, as that's the only way to get around. Make sure to save some energy for the walk back up the hill -- on hot days this hike up can be grueling. Fortunately, we rented a wheelchair for my mother, which made it easier for her to see many of the sites she would probably not been able to see otherwise.

As with any Michigan state park, a permit is required to enter. Permits can be purchased by the day or by the year, and allows admission into all of Michigan's state parks. Museum hours are 9am to 7pm daily, mid-May to mid-October.

Michigan has some beautiful state parks, but Fayette is definitely one of its best, and one of the most picturesque.

Photo Credits: Image of autumn in Michigan's Upper Peninsula appears courtesy of Raymond J. Malace/Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Image of Mackinac Bridge at sunset appears courtesy of Jeffrey Foltice/Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Kitch-iti-Kipi Kool Springs

"I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun, and ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not." These are some of the profound words found on the "Prayer of the Woods" sign you observe while you enter in to the pine and cedar forest at Kitch-iti- Kipi.

Most people think Kitch-iti-Kipi is the Ojibway word for great cold water or Big Springs, but some history buffs believes the name was given after the warrior who once drowned in these springs. Legend has it that a young warrior was trying to win the hand of a fair but fickle maiden. She would submit to his wooing only if he could catch her in his canoe as she jumped from a bough. What ever tale you believe, Kitch-iti-Kipi is Michigan's largest spring and is located at Palms Book State Park on Indian Lake, near Manistique.

To get here, go west on US-2 through Manistique to a town called Thompson. Take M-149 north to County Road 455, past the West Unit of Indian Lake State Park, and then continue to the end of M-149 to reach this park. There is a State park sticker that is required to gain entry but the raft ride is free. There is no camping at Palm Book but there is camping at Indian Lake Park located just down the road.

After a short walk through the enchanting woods of this park you will arrive at the spring. Kitch-iti-kipi or the Big Spring is 45 feet deep and 200 feet wide, and has a constant temperature of 45ºF year round with over 16,000 gallons of water gushing out of it every minute. It's a real beauty too.  With its crystal clear emerald colored water it was possible to experience its aquatic life living below. Hefty varieties of trout were swimming freely in its waters, some as large as twenty pounds or more. If you are into fishing as my son is, this was an awesome sight to behold. The light colored sandy bottom of the springs which constantly changes it shape by the force of the water makes it easy to observe whole fallen trees, limbs or branches as well as other objects that lie below.

To feel the depth of the spring, and to truly see all the beauty that lies below, you will have to take the self-powered covered raft across the spring. It's free, and kids can easily do this by pulling a cable. It only takes a few minutes to reach the other side, and can be stopped where ever you wish it too. The bottom sides of the raft are made out of a plastic/glass material for easy viewing for small children. Parents will have to make sure small children don't climb on the ledges and hang over the sides as there's nothing below but 45 feet of crystal clear water to land in. (I mention this only because I witnessed a very small unsupervised child almost end up in Kitch-iti-kipi himself.) The raft is also wheel-chair accessible and covered to reduce reflections on those hot summer days.

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