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St. Joseph and Kankakee Portage

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I took a side trip to the historic St. Joseph - Kankakee portage yesterday. It’s located on the northwest side of South Bend, Indiana. The portage connects the St. Lawrence and Mississippi watersheds and was used for hundreds of years by native American tribes before French explorers Lasalle, Jolliet, and Marquette were among the first Europeans to reach it.

St Joseph Kankakee Portage looking east.jpg
St. Joseph end of portage trail looking east

St Joseph Kankakee Portage landing.jpg
St. Joseph river portage landing

St Joseph Kankakee Portage looking west.jpg
View from portage landing looking west

It was reached by paddling approx. 60 miles upriver from today’s St. Joseph, MI on the shore of Lake Michigan. The portage trail was approx. 3.5 miles long.

Today the portage is just north of Riverview Cemetery off Portage Avenue or west of Pinhook Park. The former river bend is today an oxbow called Pinhook Lagoon which is disconnected from the river by Riverside Drive.

The portage trail followed wet and dry prairie wedged in between timberland and marshes. Nowadays, the whole area is built up. In the aerial you can make out the South Bend airport. There are a few remnants of large bur oaks as you try to follow the old portage as much as possible. Where it veers from SW to S, it seemed to follow today’s Mayflower Avenue. At it’s southern end, the terrain opens up to the wide Kankakee valley. South of the railroad a ditch channels the Kankakee’s water.

St Joseph Kankakee Portage Aerial.jpg
Modern day aerial view


Link to George Baker's 1899 book (free pdf download):
George Baker's: St. Joseph-Kankakee Portage (1899)

Link to PBS documentary about the Kankakee River marsh:

 
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The portage connects the St. Lawrence and Mississippi watersheds

How interesting. There is surely a whole geography of watershed portages that I'm unaware of. I take it. SFM, that you were not actually canoeing but just exploring the portage.
 
That's cool. You do often see that pattern of a modern road following a historic route.

I was wondering why the portage trail veered at all, usually they're quite straight, so I looked at the link. Perhaps at high water there was a shorter route through the marsh that avoided the north-south segment? Hard to read that writing.

1708811901622.png
 
I took a side trip to the historic St. Joseph - Kankakee portage yesterday. It’s located on the northwest side of South Bend, Indiana. The portage connects the St. Lawrence and Mississippi watersheds and was used for hundreds of years by native American tribes before French explorers Lasalle, Jolliet, and Marquette were among the first Europeans to reach it.

View attachment 139612
St. Joseph end of portage trail looking east

View attachment 139614
St. Joseph river portage landing

View attachment 139615
View from portage landing looking west

It was reached by paddling approx. 60 miles upriver from today’s St. Joseph, MI on the shore of Lake Michigan. The portage trail was approx. 3.5 miles long.

Today the portage is just north of Riverview Cemetery off Portage Avenue or west of Pinhook Park. The former river bend is today an oxbow called Pinhook Lagoon which is disconnected from the river by Riverside Drive.

The portage trail followed wet and dry prairie wedged in between timberland and marshes. Nowadays, the whole area is built up. In the aerial you can make out the South Bend airport. There are a few remnants of large bur oaks as you try to follow the old portage as much as possible. Where it veers from SW to S, it seemed to follow today’s Mayflower Avenue. At it’s southern end, the terrain opens up to the wide Kankakee valley. South of the railroad a ditch channels the Kankakee’s water.

View attachment 139613
Modern day aerial view


Link to George Baker's 1899 book (free pdf download):
George Baker's: St. Joseph-Kankakee Portage (1899)

Link to PBS documentary about the Kankakee River marsh:

Oh, gosh, I did the same thing a few years ago. Went into the cemetary across the street to see the Council Oak and found the Kankakee out in the farm fields. I have George Baker's book downloaded but I didn't know about the PBS doc. Thanks for posting this. Such a historic portage route!
 
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