Chicago Portage, The
The marker is located in Lyons in the Forest Preserve at 4800 South Harlem Avenue. The park is on the west side of Harlem Avenue just north of I-55.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor Civil Center Authority, and The Illinois State Historical Society
Here you stand at the west end of a 7.5 mile long water and overland travel route across a continental divide between the St. Lawrence and Mississippi River systems, known as Chicago Portage. Well-known to Native Americans, the route was first visited by Europeans more than 300 years ago. It became a major gateway for exploration and pioneer expansion to the west and for the fur trade in both directions.
This remaining protected portion of the Chicago Portage route is little changed from the time Fr. Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet, Sieur de LaSalle, Henri de Tonty, and Antoine Ouilmette, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Antoine Beaubien, John Crafts, John Kinzia, Gurdon S. Hubbard, and numerous missionaries, soldiers, pioneers, voyageurs and traders passed through here. In 1821, the original portage route was mapped by John Walls. In 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was built along the route. In 1907, the Sanitary and Ship Canal was built and remains in use today.
This land was purchased from the Chicago Sanitary District on August 3, 1950, and is now owned and protected by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. The Chicago Portage was officially designated a National Historic Site in non-Federal ownership by the Department of the Interior on January 3, 1952. It is one of only two National Historic Sites in the State of Illinois.
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