Crossing the Chicago Portage

After a few days visiting with the Kinzie’s and repairing their boats, the brigade struck camp and proceeded up the South Branch to a point near present day Ashland Avenue.  There began the hard work of crossing the Chicago Portage.  The heavy boats were pulled up a narrow channel at the end of the ”West Fork” and into Mud Lake.  Where the water was deep enough…

Four men only remained in a boat and pushed with these poles, while six or eight others waded in the mud alongside, and by united efforts constantly jerking it along, so that from early dawn to dark we succeeded only in passing a part of our boats through to the Aux Plaines outlet, where we found the first hard ground."

Those with more seniority were given the privilege of transporting the seventy plus pound packages across the seven mile long land trail to the west end of the lake where the portage trail again met the boats on the Des Plaines River.

Because Hubbard knew how to read and write, he was spared the hard labor of the portage by his status as a clerk.  But he observed the hardships of the Chicago Portage in its natural state.

While a part of our crew were thus employed, others busied themselves in transporting our goods on their backs to the river; it was a laborious day for all. Those who waded through the mud frequently sank to their waist, and at times were forced to cling to the side of the boat to prevent going over their heads”

Next page: A Hard Days Night at the Portage