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Portage is a city in and the county seat of Columbia County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 10,662 at the 2010 census making it the largest city in Columbia County. The city is part of the Madison Metropolitan Statistical Area.Portage was named for the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway, a portage between the Fox River and the Wisconsin River, which was recognized by Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet during their discovery of a route to the Mississippi River in 1673. The city's slogan is "Where the North Begins."HistoryThe Native American tribes that once lived here, and later the European traders and settlers, took advantage of the lowlands between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers as a natural "portage". In May 1673, Jacques Marquette joined the expedition of Louis Jolliet, a French-Canadian explorer, to find the Mississippi River. They departed from St. Ignace on May 17, with two canoes and five voyageurs of French-Indian ancestry (Métis). They followed Lake Michigan to Green Bay and up the Fox River, nearly to its headwaters. From there, they were told to portage their canoes a distance of slightly less than two miles through marsh and oak plains to the Wisconsin River. Later, French fur traders described the place as "le portage", which eventually lent itself to the name of the community. As a portage, this community developed as a center of commerce and trade; later, a canal was constructed to facilitate this trade. When the railroads came through, the community continued in this role.Take a peek at our world travel planner: Portage and its charms laid bare and easily scheduled.
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