2016 Lecture Series

2016 Lecture Series

The Roads That Led To Chicago

The theme of the 2016 Friends of the Chicago Portage Lecture Series "The Roads That Led To Chicago" will explore the creation and development of the pathways, watertrails and roads used by Native American's, Europeans and Americans to travel to and link Chicago with the region, nation, and world.

All presentations are at the Burr Ridge Park District Community Center, 15W400 Harvester Drive in Burr Ridge, IL.

All presentations will begin at 1pm and will end before 3pm. Reservations for individuals are not required. Groups should RSVP by calling Jeff at 312-771-6855.

All lectures are free and open to the public. Donations and sponsorships to support this series are gratefully accepted.


Jan. 30, 2016 - "How White Men Found Chicago" by Gary Mechanic

Feb. 27, -   "The Indian Trails of Early Chicago" by Jack MacRae

Mar. 26, - "The Chicago Portage Trail and Hubbard's Trace" by Phil Vierling

Apr. 30, - "19th Century Roads" by Lou Ritten


Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 at 1pm

"How White Men Found Chicago" Presented by Gary Mechanic

The location of Chicago begins appearing on European maps in the late 17th Century. French and other European explorers, traders and missionaries found their way to Chicago by using transcontinental water trails.

Lifelong paddler and regional Water Trail planner Gary Mechanic takes you on several historic canoe trips. Paddle along with 17th Century French explorers Jean Nicollet, Joliet and Marquette, LaSalle, and 18th Century English and American travelers as they find their way to Chicago.

Presented by Friends of the Chicago Portage Founder and Tour Guide Gary Mechanic.


Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at 1pm

Chicago's First Trails Presented by Jack MacRae

As the first people began living in the Chicago region, their nomadic travels changed from “following and wandering” to a more regular pattern as they moved seasonally from one area of resources to another. Over time, this regular traffic created trails and now, thousands of years later, some of those trails are roads we use today.

Potawatomie historian, master storyteller and retired Naturalist Jack MacRae explores the development of Chicago's earliest trails.
Presented at the Burr Ridge Park District Community Center, 15W400 Harvester Drive in Burr Ridge, IL.

Jack MacRae was born at an early age in the small coal mining community of Barrington, Illinois.
Jack has had a 35-year long career interpreting the natural and cultural history of the Chicago region.

Saturday, Mar. 26, 2016 at 1pm

The Chicago Portage Trail and Hubbard's Trace Presented by Phil Vierling

Phillip Vierling , historian, and author/publisher of “The Chicago Portage Ledger”, explores the paths Native Americans, European explorers and settlers used at the “Chicago Portage” to cross from the Great Lake's watershed into the Mississippi's.

Then he'll trace the development of an ancient buffalo migration "trace" into “Hubbard's Trail” and Illinois' first State Road.

Phillip Vierling is a historian, the original tour guide and Steward of the Chicago Portage National Historic Site.
He is the author/publisher of “The Chicago Portage Ledger” which is available on-line here.


Saturday, April 30, 2016 at 1pm

19th Century Roads Presented by Lou Ritten

As Chicago grew over a span on fifty years from a tiny military establishment to one of the fastest-growing cities in world history, a series of roads developed to transport people and goods between the bustling city and the rapidly populating hinterland.

Friends of the Chicago Portage member Lou Ritten will explore some of the routes that developed into major roads and introduce you to several of the settlers who traveled along them.

Presented by Friends of the Chicago Portage member, author and historian Lou Ritten.

 1805 Chicago area Indian Trails map