Grand Island, in the Platte River, has given its name to the city of Grand Island. The island was formed by a narrow channel branching off the Platte River approximately 28 miles upstream from the present city of Grand Island and rejoining the main river about 12 miles downstream from the city.
The name "Grand Island" came from the French name "La Grande Isle", meaning the large or great island. The island probably was discovered and named by French fur traders in the late 1700's. Grand Island or Grand Isle was a well-known landmark for fur traders by 1810. The name Grand Ile appears on a French map published in 1821 and on American maps published in 1822 and 1823.
Both the Long and Fremont exploring expeditions of 1820 and 1842 took note of the size of Grand Island and west-bound travelers of the 1830's often mentioned the island as the most conspicuous feature of the Central Platte Valley.
Grand Island was ceded to the United States Government by the Pawnee Indians in 1848. The modern history of the island begins with the arrival of the first permanent settlers on July 5, 1857.