What is a Rendezvous?

The Fur Trade Era began after the first European explorers, Louis Joliet and Father Marquette, canoed up the Des Plaines River and passed through the Chicago Portage in 1673. It lasted until local Indian tribes left northeastern Illinois after 1833. Rivers were the roads and interstate highways of the continent during those 160 years and the fur trade had a seasonal cycle.

The Rendezvous was the high point of the year for the traders who bartered supplies for furs with local tribes. "Brigades" or "outfits" of voyageurs would bring supplies from the headquarters of the fur companies and collect the cured skins and pelts. For sometimes as long as two weeks, the men would meet to trade and socialize, dance and sing, eat, drink, fight and race canoes. Afterwards, the brigades would return with their cargoes to Canada and the East and the traders would return to their posts for a long winter in the "Illinois Country".

voyageurs portaging a canoe

A River Thru History Rendezvous demonstrates what a rendezvous might have been like along the banks of the Des Plaines River before Chicago became a city. Re-enactors portray life on the prairie from the time DuSable opened the first trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River until the Laughton brothers closed theirs at the Chicago Portage around 1833. We also strive to highlight the early history of the twelve towns from Lyons to Lemont that compose the "district" of the I&M Canal Civic Center Authority.

Discover the rich history and wonderful stories of our region. Watch ancient crafts demonstrated and canoe races on the river, hear pioneer music played on authentic instruments, taste real root beer, smell pioneer popcorn and "twists" of tobacco and feel the hides, pelts, skins and bones of the fur trade. The past comes alive around you in an unforgettable combination of history, entertainment, learning, shopping, food and fun.