Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Pathfinders

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Rene Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle

Rene Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle led the first expedition down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico in 1682, establishing France's claim to the River Valley.

The son of a wealthy French merchant, La Salle sailed to Canada in 1666, where he heard stories of the two great rivers, the Ohio and the Mississippi. Inspired by Jolliet and Marquette's travels, La Salle explored the Mississippi with a team of 22 men. He reached the Gulf of Mexico on April 17, 1682, claiming the entire Mississippi River basin for the King of France.

La Salle was one of North America's foremost explorers who built fur trade outposts and promoted the use of sailing vessels on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. His vision of a New France stretching from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico anticipated the future greatness of the Mississippi Valley.

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