Minnesota North Shore – Grand Portage State Park

Grand Portage is the last and final state park along the North Shore.  It was the newest state park in Minnesota until 2010.  Lake Vermilion State Park is now the newest.  I look forward to visiting this location soon.  For more information, check out the Master Plan.

Grand Portage State Park is situated on the northeastern tip of Minnesota on the Canada-Untied States border.  The tallest waterfall in the state is located here; at 120 feet, it is impressive.  I can only image how it must have been to happen upon this waterfall in a canoe loaded down with supplies, crew and furs.  The nine mile portage around this falls and rapids downstream was a very laborious process no doubt.

The day we visited there was rather think fog to contend with.  At times, the visibility of the falls was impossible and you just had to stand there listening to the thunder of the water until it came back into view.  This is one of the few handicap accessible park that will bring you up close and personal with this gorgeous waterfall via ramps and board walks.  This is a day use only park with 5 miles of hiking trails.  The views of the falls and river are very picturesque.

Pigeon River – High Falls (video)
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Park Creation

The land adjoining High and Middle Falls was purchased as a possible commercial property by Lloyd K. Johnson, an attorney and land speculator from Duluth, who held onto it for decades.  In 1985 a park advocacy group, the Minnesota Parks and Trails Council, suggested complementing Ontario’s Pigeon River Provincial Park with a Minnesota state park.  Johnson, who in the 1930’s and 40’s had sold hundreds of thousands of acres to the U.S. Forest Service to help create Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, agreed to sell 178 acres and donate a further 129 acres.   The Parks and Trails Council raised Johnson’s asking price of $250,000 through contributions from individuals and foundations and completed the sale in 1988.

Since the land was within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, the state park bill was drafted with several provisions establishing a novel collaboration. Legislation establishing the park passed unanimously in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature in 1989.  The Parks and Trails Council sold the land to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for $316,000, an amount well under its appraised value.  The DNR then began the complicated process of transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would hold it in trust for the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa, who in turn would lease the park back to the DNR for $1 a year. Grand Portage State Park finally opened to the public in September 1994.   It took so long to finalize the land deal that another entire Minnesota state park, Glendalough, had been authorized, developed, and dedicated in the meantime.

History

Git-che-O-ni-ga-ming and Grand Portage are Ojibwe and French words for “a great carrying place.” Grand Portage State Park and the surrounding area is rich in Indian and fur trade history. To American Indians, voyageurs and fur traders in the 1700s, the natural features of the area were an awesome sight. Travelers and traders were faced with a 120-foot waterfall, the thundering rapids of the Pigeon River, cliffs, and rocky terrain that was impossible to cross. The only option was to go around these obstacles. The nine-mile trek became known as “The Grand Portage” and ultimately gave the area its name. The park lies within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation and is bordered by Canada on the north and east. Lake Superior is about one mile east of the park. The park was established in 1989 through the cooperative efforts of the State of Minnesota and the Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians. A unique situation exists in that this is the only state park not owned by the State of Minnesota. The land is leased from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) which holds it in trust for the Grand Portage Band. The development and operation of the park rests primarily with the Department of Natural Resources and is implemented through the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Here are my shots from my recent visit to Grand Portage State Park.

The State Parks:  (1) Gooseberry Falls |(2) Split Rock Lighthouse | (3) Tettegouche | (5) Temperance River | (6) Cascade River | (7) Judge C.R. Magney | (8) Grand Portage

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12 Replies to “Minnesota North Shore – Grand Portage State Park”

  1. Again, you have captured the power, beauty and tranquility of this place. High Falls- Pigeon River is probably one of my favorite photos of yours. The way the light is hitting the banks, the fog… it is absolutely perfect (as was the time spent there with you).

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