Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Portage
Nature Bulletin No. 58   March 23, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

Chicagoland has been millions of years in the making. But for 25,000 years it has been certain that this would be the crossroads for any great civilization on this continent and one of the major metropolitan centers of the world. Even the prehistoric mound-building Indians of the south and those of the north who built effigy mounds, met here to trade for copper. Later the Sioux, the Iroquois, the Illini, the western Algonquins which included the Potawatomi, and other once-powerful Indian rations paid tribute to the strategic Importance of this region with their dead.

Finally, in the 1600's, came the white man. Here he discovered a portage across the low continental divide between Lake Michigan and the DesPlaines River, between the watershed of the Great Lakes emptying into the Atlantic Ocean and the watershed of the Mississippi emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.

Here he established forts. Then missions and trading posts. Then a town. Trails radiated from the town. Finally he dug a ditch connecting Lake Michigan with the DesPlaines River and called it the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The town he called "Chicago".

Take a look at the DesPlaines River Valley at Willow Springs. On the highland northwest runs the great transcontinental highway, U.S. 66. Turning south from it and crossing the valley you pass beneath the 220,000 volt transmission line, from Pekin, that made possible the great war-industry plants of Chicagoland. Beneath it lies a 24-inch pipe carrying natural gas from Texas. Next the Santa Fe R.R. Then the DesPlaines River in a man-made channel. Then the Sanitary and Ship Canal, one of the world's busiest inland waterways. Then the abandoned I & M Canal. Then the Chicago and Alton R.R., the other of the only two railroads leaving Chicago westward on a continuous downgrade. Then Route 4-A, Archer Avenue, an old post road with the lines of the old Postal Telegraph on its angling right-of-way.

There you have the gateway to the Mississippi and to the Middle West. Take a walk and learn about Chicago.

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