Linking Lake St. Clair with Lake Erie, the Detroit River is about 32 miles long and dotted with about 15 islands. Due to channel dredging, the average depth of the river is 35 feet, and at Hart Plaza, the river is narrowest - about ½ mile wide.

On July 24, 1701, French explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac and his party of soldiers, traders, farmers and artisans, landed on a narrow strip of sandy beach along the north bank of the Detroit River. He climbed the 20-foot bluff to survey the land and, deciding that the location was suitable, set his party to constructing a small fort with the two-fold goal of controlling the rich fur trade and to prevent the British from invading the region. The fort was named Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit.

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