French navigator Jacques Cartier discovers St. Lawrence River - HISTORY
Year
1534
Month Day
June 09

French navigator Jacques Cartier discovers St. Lawrence River

French navigator Jacques Cartier becomes the first European explorer to discover the St. Lawrence River in present-day Quebec, Canada.

In 1534, Cartier was commissioned by King Francis I of France to explore the northern American lands in search of riches and the rumored Northwest Passage to Asia. That year, Cartier entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence by the Strait of Belle Isle, explored its barren north coast for a distance, and then traveled down the west shore of Newfoundland to Cape Anguille. From there, he discovered Magdalen and Prince Edward islands, explored Chaleur Bay, and claimed Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula for France. He then discovered the inlet of the St. Lawrence River, sailed north to Anticosti Island, and then returned to Europe.

Previously thought to be a barren and inhospitable region, Cartier’s discoveries of the warm and fertile lands around the Gulf of St. Lawrence inspired Francis I to dispatch him on a second expedition in 1535. On this voyage, he ascended the St. Lawrence to the native village of Hochelaga, site of the modern-day city of Montreal. On his return voyage to France, he explored Cabot Strait along the southern coast of Newfoundland. Cartier led a final expedition to the region in 1541, as part of an unsuccessful colonization effort. His extensive geographical discoveries formed the basis of France’s claims to the rich St. Lawrence Valley in the 17th century.

READ MORE: Jacques Cartier: Routes, Facts & Discoveries

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Best-selling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell is born

On June 9, 1956, one of the world’s top-selling crime novelists, Patricia Cornwell, best known for her forensic pathologist character Dr. Kay Scarpetta, is born in Miami, Florida. Cornwell, whose maiden name is Daniels, had a difficult childhood: When she was 5, her father, a ...read more

British vessel burned off Rhode Island

In an incident that some regard as the first naval engagement of the American Revolution, colonists board the Gaspee, a British vessel that ran aground off the coast of Rhode Island, and set it aflame. The Gaspee was pursuing the Hanna, an American smuggling ship, when it ran ...read more

Secretariat wins Triple Crown in breathtaking style

With a spectacular victory at the Belmont Stakes, Secretariat becomes the first horse since Citation in 1948 to win America’s coveted Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. In one of the finest performances in ...read more

CIA report challenges “domino theory”

In reply to a formal question submitted by President Lyndon B. Johnson—“Would the rest of Southeast Asia necessarily fall if Laos and South Vietnam came under North Vietnamese control?”—the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) submits a memo that effectively challenges the “domino ...read more

Mormon handcart pioneers depart for Salt Lake City

In an extraordinary demonstration of resolve and fortitude, nearly 500 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often informally known as Mormons) leave Iowa City and head west for Salt Lake City carrying all their goods and supplies in two-wheeled handcarts. ...read more

“Have you no sense of decency?” Sen. Joseph McCarthy is asked in hearing

In a dramatic confrontation, Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army, lashes out at Senator Joseph McCarthy during hearings on whether communism has infiltrated the U.S. armed forces. Welch’s verbal assault marked the end of McCarthy’s power during the anticommunist ...read more

William Jennings Bryan resigns as U.S. secretary of state

On June 9, 1915, United States Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan resigns due to his concerns over President Woodrow Wilson’s handling of the crisis generated by a German submarine’s sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania the previous month, in which 1,201 ...read more