Having used bribery, deception and lies to secure a commission to explore the Mississippi River in 1678, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle arrived in New France on September 15 of that year, accompanied by 30 French 'greenhorns', who la Salle had managed to recruit, and Récollet Louis Hennepin. At Niagara Falls, la Salle began the construction of Fort Conti (Fort Niagara). During this time, Louis Hennepin described Niagara Falls in great detail in his journals and, being very artistic, drew the first images of the falls themselves.
Meanwhile, la Salle oversaw the construction of the first Great Lakes ship - a brigantine which he named Griffon
On August 7, 1679, the Griffon left Fort Conti en route to Michillimakinac where it arrived less than three weeks later. From Makinac, la Salle sailed to Baie des Puants (present-day Green Bay). La Salle sent the Griffon back to Fort Niagara and began exploring Lake Michigan by canoe. He built Fort Miami at the mouth of the Miami River (St. Joseph River). By January 1680, la Salle and his companions had reached present-day Peoria, Illinois, where la Salle began the construction of Fort Crèvecoeur (Fort Heartbreak). Unknown at the time to la Salle, however, was the fact that Fort Niagara had burned to the ground and the Griffon had been lost without a trace.
It would be 2 years before la Salle would explore the Mississippi River and claim the land from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and name it 'Louisiana' after the King of France.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle
The Early Years
Incompetence and Failure
* The Mississippi River *
Deception and Murder