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Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet

Chronology of the Voyage

Editor's Note:

Although Marquette recorded only a handful of dates during the four-month voyage, it's possible to estimate roughly where the expedition was on any given day. Marquette tells us their locations on May 17, June 17, July 17, Aug. 25, and Sept. 30, and we know the mileage between those points. Because the Mississippi has often shifted its banks over the intervening three centuries, modern distances probably do not exactly match those traveled by Marquette and Jolliet. But dividing the number of miles traveled by the number of elapsed days gives the average miles covered each day on each leg of the journey.

Not surprisingly, Marquette and Jolliet traveled at the average speeds recorded for most other 17th-century canoe voyages: about 40 miles per day downstream and about 14 miles per day upstream (though Jolliet told Fr. Claude Dablon that at times they made as few as 9.5 miles against the current). The table at left lists their itinerary based on these calculations. Dates in square brackets must be taken only as rough approximations; dates without brackets are provided in the primary sources relating to the expedition.


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May 13, 1673, Louis Jolliet leaves Sault Ste. Marie for St. Ignace, at the head of Lake Michigan.

May 17, Jolliet and Marquette depart from St. Ignace with five other Frenchmen.

[June 1, at the Menominee village near Marinette, Michigan]

[June 7-10, at the Mascouten village near Berlin, Wisconsin]

[June 14, at the portage beween the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers in Columbia Co., Wisconsin]

June 17, the explorers arrive at the Mississippi River, below modern Wyalusing State Park, Wisconsin.

June 25-26, at the Illinois village on the Des Moines R., near Keokuk on the modern Iowa-Missouri border.

[July 3, near modern St. Louis, Missouri]

[July 9, at the mouth of the Ohio River]

[July 13, at the Mitchigamea village near modern Blytheville, Arkansas]

July 16, at the Quapaw-Akansea village near the mouth of the Arkansas River, across from modern Rosedale, Mississippi.

July 17, they begin the return trip upriver against the current

[July 21, near modern Helena, Arkansas]

[July 26, near modern Memphis, Tennessee]

[Aug. 9, at the mouth of the Ohio River, near Cairo IL]

[Aug. 22, near modern St. Louis, Missouri]

Aug. 25, enter the Illinois River

[Sept. 9, at the Illinois village near modern Utica, in LaSalle Co., Illinois]

[Sept. 12, portage to Des Plaines River]

[Sept. 13, reach Lake Michigan at modern Chicago]

[Sept. 20, near modern Port Washington, Ozaukee Co., Wisconsin]

[Sept. 28 portage across Door County, Wisconsin, into Green Bay]

Sept. 30, they arrive at St. Francis Xavier Mission on the Fox River in modern DePere, Wisconsin.

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