Grand Portage, Minnesota

The town of Grand Portage, platted on a bay off Hat Point, marks the starting point of a path to the Pigeon River that bypasses a twenty-mile stretch of the waterway containing High Falls and impassable rapids (see next page). Before the voyageurs arrived and gave the site its French name, the Ojibwe used the portage for generations and called it Gitcheonigaming or “great carrying place.” France’s Pierre La Verendrye arrived at Grand Portage in 1731 along with his sons and fifty French soldiers. When the British Northwest Company set up a trading post in the late 1700s, the town became one of the most important fur trading centers in North America. Today Grand Portage sits on land owned by the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe. Grand Marais’ first settler, John Godfrey, named the nearby Mount Josephine—actually an outcrop of rock thought to be some of the oldest in the world, roughly 1.3 billion years old—for his daughter who, along with some friends, climbed the peak in 1853.

Nine miles west of the Pigeon River lies the town of Grand Portage (Gitcheonigaming or “great carrying place” in Ojibwe), the starting point of a path to the river that bypasses twenty miles of river containing the falls and impassable rapids. Before the Voyageurs arrived and gave the site its French name, the Ojibwe used the portage for generations. Pierre La Verendrye arrived at Grand Portage in 1731 along with his sons and fifty French soldiers, after which it became one of the most important fur trading centers in North America.

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