Location: Lyons, Illinois
Webpage: National Historic Site
General Description: The portage at Chicago was discovered in September 1673 by Pere Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet as they returned from their voyage of exploration down the Mississippi River. Guided by the local Indians they discovered a much easier route from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. The portage crossed what was known as Mud Lake which could be passable in the wet season leaving a short portage of a few miles or a portage of just over 10 miles when dry. The National Historic Site is located at the location where Mud Lake emptied into the Des Plaines River. The portage had been used for centuries by native Indian tribes and in 1795, the Treaty of Greenville ceded an area “six miles square at the mouth of the Chikago River”. In 1803, the US constructed the first Fort Dearborn at the river’s mouth and trade continued across the portage until the fort was burned during the War of 1812. In 1816 the second Fort Dearborn was constructed when trade continued, but then gradually declined as the fur trade dried up in the region. Completed in 1848, the Illinois and Michigan Canal followed the water and portage route, as does the present Sanitary and Ship Canal today.
1) Even though the National Historic Site is in Lyons, Illinois, this is just a western suburb of Chicago, so be ready for heavy city traffic when you visit. Access is from Harlem Avenue, just north of I-55. Although affiliated with the National Park Service, the site is administered as part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County which consists of multiple interconnected green spaces and hiking/biking trails.
2) The site consists of a memorial statue, some interpretive signs, and a hiking trail. All total it will take more time dealing with the traffic getting to the site then visiting the site itself.