Tag Archives: Pigeon River

Grand Portage State Park – Gunflint Trail | MN North Shore

Fall 2013 North Shore series
[Honeymoon Bluff – Gunflint Trail] [Sunrise @ Grand Marais] [Sunrise @ Hollow Rock] [North Shore Abstracts] [Grand Portage State Park]
[The In-Between, Day 1] [The In-Between, Day 2] [The In-Between, Day 3]

A favorite destination along the North Shore – actually all the way up to the northern tip – is Grand Portage State Park where the Pigeon River flows over the tallest waterfall in Minnesota.  It is a pretty spectacular site.  It is one of the destinations along the shore that Cyndie and I very much enjoy photographing.  A great attribute of the park is that it is handicapped accessible with a paved trail, boardwalk and ramps to a viewing platform.  The path the falls is a short distance through the forest.  It was overcast that day, but that didn’t seem to dampen the glow of yellow and orange of the Autumn color – it was quite brilliant.

There is a 3.5 mile trail out to middle falls as well.  We found the third waterfall on the pigeon river too (Partridge Falls).  Partridge Falls is pretty good size, but it lacks a decent down-river vantage point.  More on that later…

Here are two views of the high falls and another of the pigeon river flowing toward Lake Superior.

Grand Portage National Monument | Minnesota North Shore

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Grand Portage National Monument is located on the north shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota.  It exists to preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage.  Opened in 2007, the Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center features exhibit galleries about Ojibwe culture and the fur trade, a bookstore, multi-media programs, park offices, archives and a classroom. The center is a collaboration between the National Park Service and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

History

As early as 2,000 years ago, Indian Nations probably used Gichi-onigaming, or “the Great Carrying Place”, to travel from summer homes on Lake Superior to winter hunting grounds in the interior of Minnesota and Ontario. In 1729 Cree guide Auchagah drew a map for some of the first French fur traders, to show them how to reach the “western sea” of Lake Winnipeg. In time, Grand Portage became the gateway into rich northern fur-bearing country, where it connected remote interior outposts to lucrative international markets.

The Grand Portage trail is an 8.5-mile trail connecting Grand Portage with Fort Charlotte on the Pigeon River. Voyageurs from the interior of Canada would carry their furs by canoe to Fort Charlotte, and portage the bundles of fur to Grand Portage. There they met traders from Montreal, and exchanged the furs for trade goods and supplies. Each canoe “brigade” then returned to its starting place. The fur traders built Fort Charlotte as a trading fort at Grand Portage. There they built the Grand Hall in the French colonial style, which housed their meetings, a general store, and other facilities.

In mid-July 1802, partners of the North West Company, the most successful fur trade company in North America, met in their Grand Hall at Grand Portage. They voted to move their summer headquarters from the protected shores of Lake Superior’s Grand Portage Bay 50 miles north to the mouth of the Kaministiquia River. Almost from the time the Anglo-Scot Nor’Westers had organized at Grand Portage in the mid-1780’s, an emerging United States wanted them to stop competing with Americans in this territory.

The July vote meant that the North West Company would tear down its 18 buildings and transport the materials north in company schooners for use in constructing the planned new Fort William, far from U.S. soil. The buildings were constructed from native squared spruce, pine and birch and were surrounded by more than 2,000 cedar pickets.

Here are my shots from a recent visit to Grand Portage National Monument.


The Grad Portage Trail – seen here in red – must have been quite a haul.  The North Canoe was used on this routed.  At 25′ long, 4′ wide with about 18″ of draft when fully loaded; the canoe itself weighed about 300 lbs.  This was about half the size of the Montreal Canoe that was used on the Great Lakes.  Even with a crew of 5-6, transporting the 300 lb. canoe and just under 3000 lbs of supplies all divided out into 25-30 90 lb packs called pieces, could not have been an easy task.  Those voyagers where hearty stock no doubt.

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Beginning at the stockade on Grand Portage Bay of Lake Superior, the 8.5-mile trail leads westward into the wilderness to a mid-point on the Pigeon River. It passes numerous rapids and a variety of waterfalls.  The most notable are Middle Falls and Pigeon Falls.  Both are part of the Grand Portage State Park and are within the Rove Formation.  Middle Falls is most easily seen from Pigeon River Provincial Park on the Canadian side of the border. To avoid numerous short portages, the Grand Portage was developed.

 

Grand Portage State Park | Minnesota North Shore

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage

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Grand Portage is the last and final state park along the North Shore.  It was the newest state park in Minnesota until 2010.  Lake Vermilion State Park is now the newest.  I look forward to visiting this location soon.  For more information, check out the Master Plan.

Grand Portage State Park is situated on the northeastern tip of Minnesota on the Canada-Untied States border.  The tallest waterfall in the state is located here; at 120 feet, it is impressive.  I can only image how it must have been to happen upon this waterfall in a canoe loaded down with supplies, crew and furs.  The nine mile portage around this falls and rapids downstream was a very laborious process no doubt.

The day we visited there was rather think fog to contend with.  At times, the visibility of the falls was impossible and you just had to stand there listening to the thunder of the water until it came back into view.  This is one of the few handicap accessible park that will bring you up close and personal with this gorgeous waterfall via ramps and board walks.  This is a day use only park with 5 miles of hiking trails.  The views of the falls and river are very picturesque.

Park Creation

The land adjoining High and Middle Falls was purchased as a possible commercial property by Lloyd K. Johnson, an attorney and land speculator from Duluth, who held onto it for decades.  In 1985 a park advocacy group, the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, suggested complementing Ontario’s Pigeon River Provincial Park with a Minnesota state park.  Johnson, who in the 1930’s and 40’s had sold hundreds of thousands of acres to the U.S. Forest Service to help create Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, agreed to sell 178 acres and donate a further 129 acres.   The Parks and Trails Council raised Johnson’s asking price of $250,000 through contributions from individuals and foundations and completed the sale in 1988.

Since the land was within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, the state park bill was drafted with several provisions establishing a novel collaboration. Legislation establishing the park passed unanimously in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature in 1989.  The Parks and Trails Council sold the land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for $316,000, an amount well under its appraised value.  The DNR then began the complicated process of transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would hold it in trust for the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, who in turn would lease the park back to the DNR for $1 a year. Grand Portage State Park finally opened to the public in September 1994.   It took so long to finalize the land deal that another entire Minnesota state park, Glendalough, had been authorized, developed, and dedicated in the meantime.

History

Git-che-O-ni-ga-ming and Grand Portage are Ojibwe and French words for “a great carrying place.” Grand Portage State Park and the surrounding area is rich in Indian and fur trade history. To American Indians, voyageurs and fur traders in the 1700s, the natural features of the area were an awesome sight. Travelers and traders were faced with a 120-foot waterfall, the thundering rapids of the Pigeon River, cliffs, and rocky terrain that was impossible to cross. The only option was to go around these obstacles. The nine-mile trek became known as “The Grand Portage” and ultimately gave the area its name. The park lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and is bordered by Canada on the north and east. Lake Superior is about one mile east of the park. The park was established in 1989 through the cooperative efforts of the State of Minnesota and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians. A unique situation exists in that this is the only state park not owned by the State of Minnesota. The land is leased from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which holds it in trust for the Grand Portage Band. The development and operation of the park rests primarily with the Department of Natural Resources and is implemented through the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Here are my shots from my recent visit to Grand Portage State Park.