Git-che O-ni-ga-ming – In the early history of our continent, negotiating the area between Lake Superior and the Pigeon River was impossible with the many rapids, cascades, gorges and waterfalls. The American Indians inhabiting the region were determined to find a way around these obstacles. Their ingenuity prevailed and a nine mile trek was established – Git-che O-ni-ga-ming. An Ojibway word meaning “a great carrying place”. This place is a nine mile “highway” connecting Lake Superior to the Pigeon River.
Grand Portage – The French explorers and Voyageurs (travelers) began using this “highway” giving it the name Grand Portage. The French established posts on both Lake Superior (North West Company) and the Pigeon River (Fort Charlotte) using the Grand Portage for easier travel. This passage greatly influenced fur trade in the area.
Grand Portage National Monument – Our first stop was the Grand Portage National Monument where the North West Company’s headquarters on Lake Superior has been re-created. Today it is a beautiful and tranquil setting. Yet we could imagine what it was like with boats arriving carrying provisions and voyageurs with fur pelts arriving from the west.
Rendezvous – The post was comprised of sixteen buildings including a business office, warehouse, food storage building, and living quarters. Once a year the post had a Rendezvous where the voyageurs arrived as well as the boats. “In 1793, its best year, 182,000 pelts came through Grand Portage.” Understand trading only took place a few weeks per year. In 1803 the post was abandoned and the company moved its operation to Canada.
High Falls – After our visit to the Grand Portage National Monument we visited High Falls. Watching the water cascade 120 feet crashing over the rocks and making its way to the rapids beneath, we realized how important the Grand Portage was to both the native people and the voyageurs.
The natural beauty of this area is everywhere. Even a short ride would produce vistas and urges to stop and just take in the magnificence of the presence.