National Monument: Grand Portage in Minnesota

Grand Portage, Minnesota Long before Europeans arrived, Native Americans had been bypassing an unnavigable stretch of the Pigeon River by

Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota
A girl dons native dress during Grand Portage’s Rendezvous Days and Pow Wow.

Grand Portage, Minnesota

Long before Europeans arrived, Native Americans had been bypassing an unnavigable stretch of the Pigeon River by an overland route they called Great Carrying Place. French voyageurs, translating the title literally, named it Grand Portage. In 1778 the North West Company, formed by a group of Canadian traders, established its headquarters at the start of the trail on the shore of Lake Superior. At the time this was a crossroads for hundreds of fur trappers and traders. The headquarters was abandoned in 1803 and fell into disrepair. The general area became a Native American reservation in 1854.

In 1958 the Grand Portage Band of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe donated the site of the Grand Portage National Monument to the U.S. government. The monument now features a carefully re-created complex of North West Company buildings. The principal structure is the Great Hall, an impressive log-and-post structure originally chinked with river clay and bear grease—and now with concrete. Also on the grounds are a kitchen fully equipped with period utensils, a fur press for packing furs into bundles, a warehouse with birchbark canoes, and a cabin built in 1900 that is now a gift shop.

The site also has two trails: the original 81/2-mile Grand Portage Trail, which cuts through the reservation to Fort Charlotte, where you will find primitive backpacking campsites, and the half-mile Mount Rose Trail, which offers a view of Lake Superior.

Open mid-May–mid-Oct. Admission charged.

http://www.nps.gov/grpo

(218) 475-0123

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest