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French explorer Jean Nicolet discovered Kaukauna in 1634, pushing his canoe down the Fox River from Green Bay. The first account of the area was written by Father Claude Allouez, who described the water falls called KaKalin Falls by the Native Americans. The name is derived from the Menominee word, Ogag-kane, meaning ‘stopping place of the pike’ and the abundance of fish below the Falls.
"On the 18th day of April 1670, we made a portage which they call Kakalin. Our sailors drew the canoe through the rapids; I walked on the banks of the river where I found apple trees and vine stalks in abundance."
– Father Claude Allouez, Diary excerpt.
For the next several decades, the area was known as Grand KaKalin. Explorers, missionaries and fur traders portaged around KaKalin Falls to cross the rushing river and 50-foot drop in elevation.