Called M'Dote or "the place where waters meet" by the Dakota, this area is central to many Dakota creation stories and is significant to Dakota people today. Just west of this site is Pilot Knob, which was used extensively for burials by the Dakota up to the 1850s.
Archaeological research has uncovered evidence of habitation at this location going back at least 9,000 years. Artifacts such as French gunflints and other trade goods clearly show this was one of the earliest fur-trading locations in Minnesota, perhaps as early as the 1660s.
The John Casper Wild painting above shows how much the site has changed since its heyday in the 1830s. The warehouses once stood directly on the riverbank, approximately where the railroad tracks run today. Much of the landscape changed in the early 20th century when barge channels were cut and natural burns were stopped in the state park along the river.
The trees now block what was once a tremendous view of the junction of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers with Fort Snelling standing over them on the opposite bluff. The river was the lifeblood of the fur trade, and was the major travel artery until the railroad came to Minnesota in the 1860s.
Today the land along the rivers are part of Fort Snelling State Park. Although the contact station and visitor center are across the river, rough trails for running, hiking, and walking follow the banks of this back channel between the Minnesota and Mississippi.
Historic Fort Snelling
Minnesota Historical Society
Sibley House Historic Site
All images are from the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society