By Jim Umhoefer
Aitkin County. 17 miles northeast of McGregor. Take Highway 65 north of McGregor to County 14 and 36; then follow this road for 10 miles to the park entrance. Highway map index: J-10.
Savanna Portage State Park (Minnesota's third largest) is named for a centuries-old footpath used by Dakota and Ojibway Indians, and later by explorers, missionaries and voyageurs. This trail is a 6 mile-long portage between the East Savanna and the West Savanna River. The Savanna Portage was a vital link between the St. Louis River watershed and that of the Mississippi River on the canoe/fur trade route from Lake Superior to the Upper Mississippi. "Savanna" (open grassland) refers to the marsh grass on the eastern segments of the trail.
Modern voyageurs can still follow this route. The eastern end of the 6-mile trail is best hiked during fall and winter. You can canoe from the West Savanna River (below Little Savanna Lake) to Big Sandy Lake and the expanses of the upper Mississippi River. Ask the manager about the water level on the West Savanna River before attempting this trip. Read more: