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Chicago Portage: A Lasting Gift

Updated: Apr 30


Chicago Portage National Historic Site. (Photo courtesy Zol87, Wikimedia Commons)

Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette passed through what is known today as the Chicago Portage during their Voyage of Discovery in 1673, planting the seed for development of World Class city and remarkable infrastructure to support the city, and connecting Chicago to the world. Their route between present day cities of Joliet and Chicago has become a corridor for canals, a highway, railroads, a reservoir, and tunnels. Jolliet would be awed to find that his vision of a simple canal to navigate between the waters of the Great Lakes and the Mighty Mississippi River created a mega-metropolis that has become the economic engine of the Midwest. Chicago

is blessed being on the shore of Lake Michigan, a vast available resource of clean water. To save the lake from the impact of so many people and much industry, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has utilized the Chicago Portage pathway for leading technology to clean wastewater and manage stormwater. The use of Lake Michigan’s water and its diversion to the Mississippi River Basin gave rise to a century of litigation. Intense urban development has almost erased any sign of Jolliet and Marquette’s passage. However, were they to reappear, an alternate portage remains available.


Download the presentation by Dick Lanyon: Chicago Portage: A Lasting Gift (April 29, 2023).


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