A half-mile from the village of Grand Portage off SR 61, the scenic historical site of Grand Portage National Monument embraces the stockade and the 8.5-mile portage—a foot path used to carry boats and supplies from Lake Superior to the Pigeon River—followed by the voyageurs to Fort Charlotte and the boundary waters separating Canada and Minnesota. The Grand Portage was the fur trade's linchpin—through this portage passed all the trade goods from Montréal and furs from the Canadian Northwest.
Native Americans originally developed and used the portage to access and transport Lake Superior copper and fish to their villages farther inland. French traders were the first Europeans to use the Grand Portage to transfer goods between the large lake canoes and the smaller north canoes. As the fur trade became more competitive during the late 18th century, companies like the North West Co. made this exchange a summer ritual. So heavy was the traffic moving through Grand Portage that it became known as the great depot.
Grand Portage was the earliest European presence in the northern Lake Superior region. It has been reconstructed partially based on archeological excavations and historic journals. The stockade, great hall, kitchen, warehouse and other reproductions re-create the setting. The 8.5-mile Grand Portage footpath follows the historic portage route to Fort Charlotte. Park ranger interpreters are on duty during operating hours.
The site is open daily 8:30-5, late May to mid-Oct.; 8:30-4:30, rest of year. Admission is free. For more information contact the Superintendent, Grand Portage National Monument, P.O. Box 426, Grand Portage, MN 55605; phone (218) 475-0123.
Isle Royale National Park, 22 miles across Lake Superior in Michigan, is served by passenger ferry boats from Grand Portage. Isle Royale is a wilderness park, and no motorized vehicles, bicycles or pets are permitted on the island. For information about boat schedules and fares contact the Superintendent, Isle Royale National Park, 800 E. Lake Shore Dr., Houghton, MI 49931-1869; phone (906) 482-0984.