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Freight and supplies were transported by ox-cart and steamboat until the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1881, the year Portage was incorporated as a town.Thomas Collins was the first mayor of Portage la Prairie.According to Environment Canada, Portage la Prairie has the most sunny days during the warm months in Canada.The area was first inhabited by Indigenous peoples (Plains Indians), long before European settlers began to arrive prior to 1850.Mary's La Prairie, 1854), and numerous local businesses as the community began to form.The fertile soils of the Portage la Prairie area were discovered in the 1850s, giving birth to the future agriculturally based economy of the village; Cochrane encouraged people to start growing crops and gardens on their properties to fulfill the needs of the growing food demand.

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye (a French-Canadian explorer and fur trader) built Fort La Reine north of the Assiniboine River to serve as a fur trading post, and provide the explorers with a "home" operating base, from which they would explore other parts of central Manitoba and western North America.

The name is derived from the French word portage, which means to carry a canoe overland between waterways.

In this case the "portage" was between the Assiniboine River and Lake Manitoba, over la prairie.

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Also, since the land is very fertile, with soils abundant in nutrients, Portage la Prairie is a major agricultural centre in Manitoba, and in Canada.

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