Isle a la Cache Museum

Last updated
Isle a la Cache Museum
Location501 E. Romeo Road
Romeoville, Illinois
Coordinates 41°38′23″N88°04′09″W / 41.6397°N 88.0692°W / 41.6397; -88.0692
Website Isle a la Cache Museum

The Isle a la Cache Museum is a free-standing museum operated by the Forest Preserve District of Will County on Isle a la Cache, an island in the Des Plaines River. Located in Romeoville, Illinois, the museum and island are served by Illinois Route 53 and by the Centennial Trail/I&M Canal Trail. The museum's mission is to educate all visitors, especially children, about the fur-trading heritage of Chicago metropolitan area and Will County in particular. An unofficial mission statement posted on the museum's website says that it "offers visitors an adventure in 18th century history, when the 'Illinois Country' was home to French voyageurs and native Potawatomi." [1]



The Des Plaines River island where this museum is built was used in the 18th century, prior to active occupation of the land by the new United States of America, by French-speaking Chicago-area coureurs de bois as a place to camp, store, and exchange goods used in the North American fur trade. The technologies used by Native Americans and their fur-trader visitors to hunt, fish, grow crops, and obtain furs and pelts are the focus of the museum. [1]

Due to what was then a massive lacework of interconnected wetlands up and down the Illinois River, the Des Plaines River, the Chicago River, and their tributaries, the Illinois Country was a focus of the continent-wide fur trade. Many beaver, whose pelts were highly valued in Europe and China, lived up and down the rivers; they could be trapped and skinned, and their pelts sold. The Potawatomi nation, a network of tribal clans that lived around the shores of southern Lake Michigan, had a culture that centered around hunting. Many of their clan members enthusiastically cooperated with the trade. [1]

The voyageurs who also participated in this trade were part of a chain of cultural links and economic ties that stretched northeast to Quebec. Many of the furs bought and sold here were stored in caches; when enough of them were gathered they would be tied into bales and sent by canoe to Montreal or southward, down the Des Plaines and Illinois, to New Orleans. Their French-language heritage became one of the first elements of the multilingual diversity of today's Will County. [1]


Today's Isle a la Cache Museum includes reconstructions of the longhouses and other camp structures that once housed trade participants here. The museum hosts educational public programs, including historical demonstrations and campfires. Its annual cycle of activities centers on the Island Rendezvous, a historical reenactment held annually since 1984 on the second Saturday of June. [1] [2] [3]

As of 2020 the Isle a la Cache Museum is free and open to the public. [1]

Related Research Articles

Mountain man Men living remotely in the Rocky Mountains of North America

A mountain man is an explorer who lives in the wilderness. Mountain men were most common in the North American Rocky Mountains from about 1810 through to the 1880s. They were instrumental in opening up the various Emigrant Trails allowing Americans in the east to settle the new territories of the far west by organized wagon trains traveling over roads explored and in many cases, physically improved by the mountain men and the big fur companies originally to serve the mule train based inland fur trade.

Voyageurs National Park United States National Park near International Falls, Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park is an American national park in northern Minnesota near the town of International Falls established in 1975. The park's name commemorates the voyageurs—French-Canadian fur traders who were the first European settlers to frequently travel through the area. The park is notable for its outstanding water resources and is popular with canoeists, kayakers, other boaters, and fishermen. The Kabetogama Peninsula, which lies entirely within the park and makes up most of its land area, is accessible only by boat. To the east of the park lies the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Billy Caldwell, baptized Thomas Caldwell, known also as Sauganash, was a British-Potawatomi fur trader who was commissioned captain in the Indian Department of Canada during the War of 1812. He moved to the United States in 1818 and settled there. In 1829 and 1833 he negotiated treaties on behalf of the United Nations of Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi with the United States, and became a leader of a Potawatomi band at Trader's Point. He worked to gain the boundary long promised by the British between white settlers and Indians, but never achieved it.

Grand Portage National Monument United States historic place

Grand Portage National Monument is a United States National Monument located on the north shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota that preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage. The area became one of the British Empire's four main fur trading centers in North America, along with Fort Niagara, Fort Detroit, and Michilimackinac.

The Calumet Region is the geographic area drained by the Grand Calumet River and the Little Calumet River of northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana in the United States. It is part of the Great Lakes Basin, which eventually reaches the Atlantic Ocean. It is a sub-region of the greater Northwest Indiana region and the even larger Great Lakes region.

Ottawa National Forest national forest in Michigan, United States

The Ottawa National Forest is a national forest that covers 993,010 acres (401,860 ha) in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan. It includes much of Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, as well as slices of Iron, Houghton, Baraga, and Marquette counties. The forest is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.

Des Plaines River Trail

The Des Plaines River Trail is a recreational multiuse trail that follows the course of the Des Plaines River through most of Lake and part of Cook County in northeast Illinois in the United States.

Forest Preserve District of Cook County public land management agency

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is a governmental commission in Cook County, Illinois, that owns and manages the Cook County Forest Preserves. The preserves are a network of open spaces, containing forest, prairie, wetland, streams, and lakes, that are mostly set aside as natural areas. Cook County contains Chicago, and is the center of the most densely populated urban metropolitan area in the Midwest. The Forest Preserves encompass approximately 68,000 acres (275 km²) of open space within the urban surroundings of Chicago. It contains facilities for recreation, as well as a zoo and a botanic garden.

Jacques La Ramee explorer, moutain man, coureur des bois, fur trader

Jacques La Ramée, was a French-Canadian Métis coureur des bois, frontiersman, trapper, fur trader, hunter, explorer, and mountain man who lived in what is now the U.S. state of Wyoming, having settled there in 1815. His name appears in several spellings, including La Ramee, Laramée, LaRamée, La Ramie, La Rami, La Remy, and Laramie. La Ramée is credited as an early explorer of what is now called the Laramie River of Wyoming and Colorado. The city of Laramie, Wyoming, with an Americanized spelling, was later named for him.

Joseph Bailly was a fur trader and a member of an important French Canadian family that included his uncle, Charles-François Bailly de Messein.

Chicago Portage National Historic Site United States historic place

The Chicago Portage National Historic Site is a National Historic Site in Lyons, Cook County, Illinois, United States. It is located in Chicago Portage Forest Preserve and the Ottawa Trail Woods Forest Preserve, at the junction of Portage Creek with the Des Plaines River, on the west side of Harlem Avenue on the line of 48th Street. Preserved within the park is the western end of the historic portage linking the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River, thereby linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. A memorial depicting the portage of French explorers is located at the parking area. A trail leads from the memorial down into the portage wilderness area.

Traverse des Sioux United States historic place

Traverse des Sioux is a historic site in the U.S. state of Minnesota. Once part of a pre-industrial trade route, it is preserved to commemorate that route, a busy river crossing on it, and a nineteenth-century settlement, trading post, and mission at that crossing place. It was a transshipment point for pelts in fur trading days, and the namesake for an important United States treaty that forced the Dakota people to cede part of their homeland and opened up much of southern Minnesota to European-American settlement.

Sauk Trail list of roads or other routes with the same name

The Sauk Trail was originally a Native American trail running through what are present-day Illinois, Indiana and Michigan in the United States. From west to east, the trail ran from Rock Island on the Mississippi River to the Illinois River near modern Peru then along the north bank of that river to Joliet, and on to Valparaiso, Indiana. Then it ran northeasterly to La Porte and into southern Michigan running through Niles, Sturgis, Ypsilanti, and ending at the Detroit River near Detroit.

The Forest Preserve District of Will County was created by referendum on July 25, 1927, to preserve open spaces in Will County, Illinois, US. The first land acquisition was in 1930. As of December 2010, the District owns or manages 21,916 acres (8,869 ha) of land. Current Will County board members make up a board of commissioners, which oversees the affairs of the Forest Preserve District.

Voyageurs French Canadians who engaged in the transporting of furs by canoe during the fur trade years

The voyageurs were French Canadians who engaged in the transporting of furs by canoe during the fur trade years. The emblematic meaning of the term applies to places and times where transportation of materials was mainly over long distances.

Sag Bridge, Illinois Populated place in Illinois, United States

Sag Bridge, Illinois is a populated place in southwestern Cook County, Illinois. Sag Bridge is an important waterway junction between the Calumet Sag Channel and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. It is also the junction of IL 83 and IL 171 which meet at Sag Bridge to cross the Calumet Sag Channel together on the eponymous bridge. The community was named for a predecessor of the present bridge. It is within the village limits and postal delivery zone of Lemont, Illinois.

Ralph Frese, canoe maker and conservationist and prominent figure in the North American canoeing circles lived from 1926 until December 10, 2012. Frese lived in the Chicago area. He is known for promoting conservation and canoeing, building historic replica canoes, and starting canoeing and conservation organizations and events.

Jean Baptiste Beaubien

Jean Baptiste Beaubien, a multi-lingual fur-trader born in Detroit, Michigan, became an early resident of what became Chicago, Illinois, as well as an early civic and militia leader in Cook County, Illinois during the Black Hawk War, before moving to Du Page County, Illinois in his final years.

Isle a la Cache, a 101-acre riparian island, is located in the Des Plaines River in Romeoville, Illinois. The island is a forest preserve, owned and operated by the Forest Preserve District of Will County. The county has built the Isle a la Cache Museum on the island in celebration of the island's heritage in the North American fur trade.

Alexander Robinson (chief)

Alexander Robinson, was a British-Ottawa chief born on Mackinac Island who became a fur trader and ultimately settled near what later became Chicago. Multilingual in Odawa, Potawatomi, Ojibwa, English and French, Robinson also helped evacuate survivors of the Fort Dearborn Massacre in 1812. In 1816, Robinson was a translator for native peoples during the Treaty of St. Louis. He became a Potawatomi chief in 1829 and in that year and in 1833, he and fellow Metis Billy Caldwell negotiated treaties on behalf of the United Nations of Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi with the United States. Although Robinson helped lead native Americans across the Mississippi River in 1835, unlike Caldwell, Robinson returned to the Chicago area by 1840 and lived as a respected citizen in western Cook County until his death decades later.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Isle a la Cache Museum". Forest Preserve District of Will County . Retrieved 2012-04-30.
  2. "'Island Rendezvous' Returns for 32nd Year" (PDF). Forest Preserve District of Will County. Spring 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 28, 2015. Retrieved May 27, 2015.
  3. "Days of Traders and Travelers Revisited at 'Island Rendezvous'". Forest Preserve District of Will County. May–August 2016. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2016.