Timeline of La Salle and his Journeys


Born in the port of Rouen, France, to wealthy family of merchants.


Becomes a novice in the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at age of 15 and gives up his share of family’s fortune.


Leaves the Jesuits to go to “New France” (Canada), where he establishes a trading post and village at today's Lachine, a few miles above Montreal.


Sells his concession at Lachine and launches his first exploratory expedition in company with a Sulpician group, hoping to discover the Ohio River. He returns alone without a clear accounting of where he had been.


Returns to France to obtain royal concession to Fort Frontenac and a patent of untitled nobility.permission from King Louis XIV to explore the new land, western “New France.”   


Again in France, he obtains the right to discover at his own expense the western parts of New France, a vague region that had been given the name La Louisiane in honor of the king. Over the next three years, he builds ships to navigate the upper Great Lakes and establishes trading posts from Niagra to Illinois.


With 23 Frenchmen in four canoes and 28 Mohegan and Abnaki Indians, La Salle reaches the Mississippi, explores it to its mouth, and claims for France all the lands drained by it.


Returns to France to seek the king's backing for a voyage to the Gulf of Mexico to establish a settlement near the mouth of the Mississippi from which to invade the region of northern Mexico known as Nueva Vizcaya.


Leaves France with approximately 300 people—settlers, soldiers, and priests—aboard four ships, La Belle, Le Joly,  L'Aimable,  and Saint-Francois.

Spanish pirates seize the Saint-Francois. The remainder of the fleet arrives at Saint- Domingue (Haiti).

The remaining ships set sail from Saint-Domingue for the mouth of the Mississippi.


La Salle arrives off Texas coast.  He has missed the Mississippi River and lands instead in Matagorda Bay.

La Belle enters Matagorda Bay through what is now known as Pass Cavallo.
L'Aimable runs aground trying to enter a narrow channel and breaks apart. Most of the supplies for the colony are lost.  

The ship, Le Joly, carrying 120 passengers, returns to France.  Approximately 180 people remain behind.  La Salle sets out with a group of men in canoes to explore “Baye St. Louis" and to look for a suitable location for the settlement. The others establish a temporary camp—the Grand Camp—on Matagorda Island under the leadership of La Salle’s trusted officer, Joutel. 

La Salle selects a permanent location for the colony on the banks of a stream he calls the River of the Bison. He lays out the settlement that, through historical error, has come to be known as Fort St. Louis.

Seventy colonists leave the island camp and head for the area of the new settlement.

Joutel and his men, who had stayed at the island camp, travel up the bay aboard The  Belle and join the other colonists.

Traveling in canoes, La Salle and 50 men leave to search for the mouth of the Mississippi. The Belle follows with 37 men. There is no contact between the two groups for a month.


La Salle leaves again to explore another route.

A storm drives La Belle, La Salle's only remaining ship, aground on a sandbar off Matagorda Island. La Salle party returns to the settlement after being gone two months.

Six survivors from the Belle reach the settlement in a canoe after having camped on Matagorda Island near the shipwreck for three months.


La Salle and 16 men leave for Canada to obtain supplies for the colony.  At Fort St. Louis, only 20 colonists now remain.  Disease and attacks by the local Indians, the Karankawa, have taken a toll on the settlement.  

La Salle is ambushed and killed in east Texas by two of his men: Pierre Duhaut and L’Archeveque. Five of his men continue on to Canada, while others stay in Texas.

Spanish expedition of Rivas and Iriarte finds the wreck of  La Belle in Matagorda Bay.


Karankawa attack the French settlement (Fort St. Louis). The colonists, weakened by smallpox and other maladies, cannot defend themselves.  The Indians kill all but five children, who are taken captive. 

A Spanish expedition led by Gen. Alonso de Léon, intent on destroying the French settlement, finds the remains of the colony. The Spaniards bury the bones of three settlers lying scattered on the ground, bury eight cannons, and map the fort.


Spanish expedition led by the Marqués de Aguayo returns to Garcitas Creek and begins construction of Presdio La Bahía on top of the ruins of Fort St. Louis.  Presidio moved in 1726.   

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