Which two French explorers were responsible for exploring the Mississippi river?

Tourist Attractions

By Kristy Tolley

Importance of Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is one of the most important rivers in North America, running 2,320 miles from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the fourth-longest river in the world and has played a significant role in the history and development of the United States. The river is not only a vital artery for transportation and commerce but also a valuable resource for agriculture and industry.

Early French Exploration in North America

The French were one of the first European powers to explore North America, establishing settlements along the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes in the early 17th century. They were also the first to explore the Mississippi River, which they believed could lead them to the Pacific Ocean and a lucrative trade route to Asia. In the mid-17th century, two French explorers, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, set out on an expedition to search for the Mississippi River’s mouth.

First French Expedition to Mississippi

Louis Jolliet was born in Quebec, Canada, in 1645. He was a fur trader and explorer who had previously explored the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi River. Jacques Marquette was a Jesuit priest who had been working as a missionary among the Native American tribes in the Great Lakes region. In 1672, they received permission from the French governor of Canada to explore the Mississippi River and find its mouth.

Life of Louis Jolliet

Louis Jolliet was the son of a wagon maker who had migrated from France to Quebec. He was educated at a Jesuit school and became a fur trader, working for the French colonial government. He explored the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi River, searching for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Jolliet was a skilled cartographer and mapmaker, and his maps of the Mississippi River were instrumental in the river’s later exploration and development.

Life of Jacques Marquette

Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France, in 1637. He joined the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order, and was sent to Quebec in 1666 to work as a missionary among the Native American tribes. Marquette was fluent in several Native American languages and was respected for his knowledge of their customs and beliefs. He was a skilled navigator and mapmaker and had a strong interest in geography and exploration.

The Partnership of Jolliet and Marquette

Jolliet and Marquette met in 1673 in the French settlement of Michilimackinac, where they were both preparing for their expedition to find the Mississippi River’s mouth. They formed a partnership based on their complementary skills, with Jolliet as the lead navigator and Marquette as the spiritual leader and interpreter. They were accompanied by five other Frenchmen and two Native American guides.

The Expedition of 1673

Jolliet and Marquette set out from Michilimackinac in May 1673 and traveled down the Fox River to the Wisconsin River. They followed the Wisconsin River to the Mississippi River, which they reached on June 17, 1673. They then continued south, exploring the river and mapping its course. They encountered several Native American tribes along the way and established friendly relations with many of them. They reached the mouth of the Arkansas River before turning back, due to concerns about encountering Spanish explorers.

The Discoveries Along the Mississippi River

Jolliet and Marquette’s expedition made several important discoveries along the Mississippi River. They were the first Europeans to explore the river’s upper reaches and to map its course. They also discovered the Missouri River, which they believed could be a possible passage to the Pacific Ocean. They recorded their observations of the flora and fauna of the region and made detailed maps of the river and its surroundings.

The End of the Partnership

After their expedition, Jolliet and Marquette went their separate ways. Jolliet returned to Quebec and continued to work as a fur trader and explorer. He later settled in Illinois and became a wealthy landowner. Marquette returned to his missionary work among the Native American tribes and established a mission near the site of present-day Chicago. He died in 1675, at the age of 38, from a combination of illness and overwork.

Legacy of Jolliet and Marquette

Jolliet and Marquette’s expedition was a significant achievement in the history of exploration and geographic knowledge. Their maps and observations were instrumental in the later development and settlement of the Mississippi River Valley. They established friendly relations with many Native American tribes and paved the way for future French explorers and traders. Their legacy is celebrated in many places along the Mississippi River, including the Jolliet Museum in Illinois and the Marquette Museum in Michigan.

Conclusion: Their Contributions to History

Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette were two French explorers who made significant contributions to the history of North America. Their partnership and expedition to explore the Mississippi River were an important milestone in the continent’s exploration and development. They were skilled navigators, mapmakers, and observers, and their legacy is still felt today in the regions they explored and documented.

Further Reading and References

  • "Louis Jolliet" by Richard A. Brisbin Jr. in The Canadian Encyclopedia
  • "Jacques Marquette" by John T. Frederick in Encyclopædia Britannica
  • "Jolliet and Marquette Expedition (1673)" by Timothy R. Pauketat in The Oxford Companion to American Archaeology
  • "Exploration of the Mississippi River" by National Park Service
  • "Jolliet and Marquette" by Wisconsin Historical Society
Photo of author

Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

Leave a Comment