Wayback Wednesday: Jolliet-Marquette Upper Mississippi Exploration 1673
Three hundred, fifty years ago, today…
On May 17, 1673, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette departed from St. Ignace, Michigan, with two canoes and five other voyageurs of French-Indian ancestry. The group sailed to Green Bay. They paddled upstream (southward) on the Fox River to the site now known as Portage, Wisconsin. There, they portaged a distance of slightly less than two miles through marsh and oak forest to the Wisconsin River. Europeans eventually built a trading post at that shortest convenient portage between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. On June 17, the canoeists ventured onto the Mississippi River near present-day Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
The Jolliet-Marquette expedition paddled along the west bank of the Mississippi until mid-July. When they passed the mouth of the Arkansas River, they became satisfied that they had established that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.
The voyageurs then followed the Mississippi back to the mouth of the Illinois River, which friendly natives told them was a shorter route back to the Great Lakes. Following the Illinois river upstream, they turned up its tributary, the Des Plaines River near modern-day Joliet, Illinois. They continued up the Des Plaines River and portaged their canoes, and gear, at the Chicago Portage. They followed the Chicago River downstream until they reached Lake Michigan near the location of modern-day Chicago. Father Marquette stayed at the mission of St. Francis Xavier at the southern end of Green Bay, which they reached in August. Jolliet returned to Quebec to relate the news of their discoveries. On his way through the Lachine Rapids, Jolliet’s canoe overturned and his records were lost. His brief narrative, written from memory, is in essential agreement with Marquette’s, the chief account of the journey.
While Hernando de Soto was the first European to make official note of the Mississippi River by discovering its southern entrance in 1541, Jolliet and Marquette were the first to locate its upper reaches and, travel most of its length, about 130 years later. De Soto had named the river Rio del Espiritu Santo but, tribes along its length called it “Mississippi”, meaning “Great River” in the Algonquian languages.
♦ Louis Jolliet (Britannica)
♦ Louis Jolliet (Dictionary of Canadian Biography)
♦ Jacques Marquette (Britannica)
♦ Jacques Marquette (Biography)
♦ The Explorers (Canadian Museum of History)
♦ Archdiocese of Chicago (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia/James Marquette)
Louis Jolliet & Jacques Marquette: PBS World Explorers
Marquette and Jolliet: The Beginning of the Voyage to the Mississippi
10 thoughts on “Wayback Wednesday: Jolliet-Marquette Upper Mississippi Exploration 1673”
May 18, 2023 at 7:56 AM
Interesting! I poked around a bit on the Wiki links and am surprised ‘mound builders’ didn’t come up. They have the famous Cahokia mounds up north along the Mississippi, and we have the Caddo mounds not far from us—though there are examples all over the eastern half of the U.S. Many of them are now UNESCO sites—b/c of course, where would global culture be without the great generosity of the U.N.?
May 18, 2023 at 1:49 PM
Mounds appear to be in other countries, too. There are a lot of them in the UK.
Fuck the UN. NATO, too.
May 18, 2023 at 6:55 PM
Jolliet and Marquette were amazed when, 150 miles upstream, they started to run into floating Starbucks cups and Big Mac wrappers.
May 18, 2023 at 11:34 PM
Have you looked up the Piasa Bird? According to my buddy that lived in the area, it was, supposedly, a painting on the side of a rock face by Native Americans. Weird looking thing…
May 20, 2023 at 10:08 AM
So… The Piasa is the first venture into graffiti?
May 20, 2023 at 10:25 AM
From what my buddy tells me…or, at least in his area. I assume there are still drawings from the lomg gone Anasazi. Of course, in modern times, that giant rock formation has been blasted on…for whatever reason (progress? tantrum? minerals?)…and the artwork had to be redone. So. The original NA design is gone. It was re-crafted by modern artists.
May 19, 2023 at 11:22 AM
Well I know now who Marquette college is named after… brave men back then.
May 19, 2023 at 12:30 PM
All roads lead back to Jacques Marquette…except for Marquette, Nebraska. Different dude. And, some Marquette towns/cities/villages/counties are named after other towns/cities/villages/counties.
Then, there is Jolliet. He has a Canadian stone frigate named after him, plus Joliet, Illinois. Joliet, Montana is named after Illinois. There is a Joliet, Texas, near the Austin area but, nothing listed for namesake. I guess the “namers” here in the US didn’t like that second “L” for some reason. Joliette, Quebec, is named after one of his descendants, with an extra “T”. There is a Jolliet squadron of cadets at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean and, even a Louis Jolliet rose.
It’s nice to be remembered. 😁
May 19, 2023 at 12:55 PM
Yea I was talking about Wisconsin so that is the one. There is also a prison called Joliet…
May 19, 2023 at 1:33 PM
I saw that, too.
You must log in to post a comment.