The Mississippi River's many islands are well known to navigators, and
the roles of several as accessible and safe havens for villages, camps,
and forts have made
them significant in Minnesota's past. Lt. Zebulon Pike
chose this island, later named for him, as a camp site on his 1805
expedition to explore the upper Mississippi, following the Louisiana Purchase.
Pike met with Dakota Indian leaders here and purchased land which would
later become part of the Twin Cities.
Grey Cloud Island, further downstream, was known to the Dakota people
for its supernatural woods and its great variety of wild fruit. U. S. troops
under the command of Colonel Henry Leavenworth found it a good
campsite on their way up the river to establish Fort Snelling, and in
1838 Joseph R. Brown, a former fort drummer boy, established a
trading post there.
The home of the Prairie Island Dakota Indian Community, who share it
with a nuclear power plant, Prairie Island at the mouth of the Vermillion
River may have been one of the first Minnesota locations visited by
French explorers in the late 17th century.
They called it Isle Pelee (Bald Island), probably
because of its extensive prairie cover dotted
with several lakes and sloughs.