The Chicago Portage National Historic Site is one of only two National Historic Sites in Illinois. Chicago owes its very existence as a city to the location of this site. The first European explorers recognized the importance of this short land connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Today most Chicago area residents are unaware of its location, significance and long history in the development of our region.
In 1989 the Civic Center Authority commissioned the statue of Jolliet, Marquette and their Native American guide and in cooperation with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, installed the statue near the original Portage Creek in Portage Woods Forest Preserve.
The Chicago Portage National Historic Site is located in Portage Woods Forest Preserve on the west side of Harlem Avenue (Rt. 43) about two blocks north of the Stevenson Expressway (I55) and and Ottawa Trails Forest Preserve on the west side of Harlem on the north side of 47th Street in Lyons, Illinois.
Not only did Joliet and Marquette pass though the Chicago Portage as they discovered and explored Chicago, but the evidence of much of our history before and after their passage can be seen here.
The glacier that covered downtown with a mile of ice carved the landscape as it melted away past this place.
You can walk on the sand of a beach left by an earlier version of Lake Michigan.
Native Americans blazed the first trails through this area as they traveled between the mouth of the Chicago River and the rest of the Illinois country.
The first European explorers recognized the importance of this short land connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi.
The fur traders that opened up Illinois traditionally camped and traded here.
The builders of Chicago changed the course of the Des Plaines River and built levies, embankments and dams at the Portage site that the city depends on today.
Recently deceased Chicago Tribune columnist John Husar, after touring the site in 1999, called it: "Our sacred ground".
It is certainly Chicago's "Plymouth Rock".