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A Hard Days Night at the Portage

Following a hard day of moving the packages and boats across the portage, the men camped near the boats by the river at the west end of the portage where the land and water trails came together again, located today in Portage Woods Forest Preserve.  Even then camping by the river in late summer could be uncomfortable:


“after reaching the end and camping for the night came the task of ridding themselves from the bloodsuckers. ... The lake was full of these abominable black plagues, and they stuck so tight to the skin that they broke in pieces if force was used to remove them; experience had taught the use of a decoction of tobacco to remove them, and this was resorted to with good success.

Having rid ourselves of the bloodsuckers, we were assailed by myriads of mosquitoes, that rendered sleep hopeless, though we sought the softest spots on the ground for our beds. Those who had waded the lake suffered great agony, their limbs becoming swollen and inflamed, and their sufferings were not ended for two or three days. It took us three consecutive days of such toil to pass all our boats through this miserable lake...”

The hard work was not yet over.  It took them almost three weeks to get from Isle a la Cache (near Romeoville, IL) to the mouth of the Fox River.

“And”, writes Hubbard, “most of the distance to the Illinois River our goods were carried on our backs”.

Next page:
Life as a Fur Trader