The Chicago Portage archive is available for download as a single .zip file from here. The archive includes copies of The Chicago Portage Ledger, photographs of the site, and the video "Connected Worlds: The Story of the Chicago Portage.
Furthermore, this December, we are launching a new platform for our unique digital collections.
Please take a moment to preview it and let us know what you think!


Interpretive Tours

Interpretative Tours

Both young and old find Jeff Carter's tours facinating.

Tour Chicago’s Plymouth Rock


Friends of the Chicago Portage will continue conducting monthly free public tours of the Chicago Portage National Historic Site in 2024.  The 2024 tour season will begin on Saturday, May 4th, and continues on the 1st Saturday of each month until the last tour on Saturday, October 5, 2024. All tours begin at 10am in Portage Woods Forest Preserve (4800 S. Harlem Av.) front of the statue of Joliet, Marquette and their Native American guide.

A small unremarkable ditch on the west side of Harlem just north of the Stevenson (I55) Expressway is protected by National Historic Site status in Portage Woods Forest Preserve. The short and shallow ditch is the reason a great city grew near it, and is a key link in Chicago's largely unknown birth story. Once a month in the warm seasons, experienced Friends of the Chicago Portage tour guides lead visitors back through time to discover how the portage was formed, how it was used, how Chicago began and why it's become the capitol of the Midwest.

Friends founder and veteran tour guide Gary Mechanic
leads a group to discover the birth stories of Chicago.

Chicago owes its very existence to the location of the Chicago Portage. The first European explorers, Jolliet & Marquette, passed through the Portage in 1673. It provided an easy connection between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico by linking Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River.

Since that time nearly every site of Chicago's origins has been destroyed. The remains of Fort Dearborn are buried under three layers of Wacker Drive, the Portage Trail is completely paved over and old Mud Lake is now the site of the world's largest sewage treatment plant. The Chicago Portage National Historic Site is the only major remnant of the discovery and settlement of Chicago.

One of only two National Historic Sites in Illinois, the Chicago Portage National Historic Site is the only place where you can stand on the same ground walked upon by all the explorers, early settlers and creators of Chicago. The late Tribune columnist John Husar, after touring the site called it “Our sacred ground”. It is certainly Chicago's “Plymouth Rock”.

The Chicago Portage Forest Preserve and National Historic Site is on the west side of Harlem Ave. (4800 S. Harlem) just 2 blocks north of the Stevenson Expressway (I55). Meet at the monumental statue of Joliet and Marquette and their Native American guide at 10am. 

Tours are approximately 1 ½ hour long and 1/2 mile in length on asphalt and dirt paths through the woods.

Wear long pants and walking shoes or boots. All tours are free and open to the public. Tours run rain or shine. Reservations for individuals and small groups are not required. For private and school group tours, or for groups of 10 or more, please call 773-590-0710 for reservations.

Friends of the Chicago Portage promotes the historic interpretation, ecological restoration and appropriate development of the Chicago Portage National Historic Site through volunteer advocacy, public events and other projects that raise public awareness of the site's history and significance.

For more information:
Gary Mechanic, 773-590-0710 (cell - 8am to 8pm only please)
gbmechanic at