1492 Cristobal Colon, an Italian on a Spanish-financed expedition, discovers the New World. He travels with two Spanish captains as the captains of the Niña and the Pinta. Martin Alonzo Pinzon sailed as captain of the Pinta, but he was also the co-owner of the Niña and the Pinta. His brother, Vincente Pinzon, sailed as captain of the Niña. Vincente Pinzon made additional explorations in South and Central America.
1513 Juan Ponce de Leon, in search of the fountain of youth and other fabulous riches, instead became the first European to land in Florida. At the time, he was also the first governor of Puerto Rico. On a later expedition, he discovered the Gulf Stream This current became very important for Spanish trips from Europe to the Americas.
1519 Captain Alonso Alvarez de Pineda explored and charted the Gulf Coast from Florida to Mexico. De Pineda and his crew were the first Europeans in Texas, and claimed it for Spain.
1539 Hernando De Soto was the first European to explore Florida and the southeastern US. He had already explored Nicaragua, and with Francisco Pizarro, won fame by toppling the Incan empire in Peru. De Soto landed on the west coast of Florida with 600 men, and spent four years looking for gold and brutalizing the native people. He died near the Mississippi River.
1526 Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón was the first European colonizer of what is now South Carolina, although his colony failed. He also explored Cape Fear.
1528 Panfilo de Narvaez led a disastrous expedition to settle Florida, when almost all of his men, and de Narvaez himself, died after being abandoned onshore. Four men survived, and spent the next eight years crossing Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, looking for a Spanish settlement. Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions were the first Europeans to explore the Southwest, and the first to contact many Southwestern tribes.
1528-1536 Alvar Cabeza de Vaca explores Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. De Vaca published an account of his journey upon his return to New Spain.
1539 Fray Marcos de Niza, a Franciscan priest, claimed to have traveled to the fabled "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola" during the summer of 1539. The Viceroy of New Spain sent Fray Marcos to accompany Estevan, a Moorish slave who had traveled with Cabeza de Vaca, to find the fabled treasure houses. Estevan was killed at Zuni Pueblo, but Fray Marcos returned to Mexico and spread the legend.
1540 Gonzalo Pizarro explored the Amazon area.
Francisco de Orellana traces source of Amazon River to Atlantic Ocean.
Garcia Lopez de Cardenas (as part of the Coronado expedition) discovers the Grand Canyon.
1540-1542 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado searched for the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola for nearly three years, covering huge areas of Arizona, New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, the Texas panhandle, Kansas, and Colorado.
1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed from Acapulco to southern California, claiming California for King Charles I of Spain. Cabrillo named San Diego Bay and Santa Barbara.
1563-1565 Francisco de Ibarra explored New Mexico
1565 Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles established a settlement at St. Augustine, Florida, making it the oldest European city in the U.S.. De Aviles also explored the coastline of North America as far north as St. Helena Island, South Carolina, and had forts built along the coast for protection.
1580 Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado explored New Mexico.
1582-1583 Don Antonio Espejo explored New Mexico.
1592 Juan de Fuca sailed up the western coast of North America from Mexico to Vancouver Island, looking for a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. He believed the Strait of Juan de Fuca (named for him 200 years later by Captain Vancouver) was the outlet of a mighty river which flowed through to the Atlantic Ocean.
1594-1596 Juan de Humana and Francisco Leiva Bonilla explored New Mexico and Colorado as far as the Purgatoire River.
1595 Sebastian Melendez Rodriguez Cermenho sailed from the Philippines to California, and charted the coast from Point Reyes, north of San Francisco, south to Acapulco.
After running aground near Point Reyes (north of San Francisco), Cermenon named the nearby bay San Francisco (it is now called Drakes Bay). They built a smaller boat from the wreckage and sailed to Acapulco, Mexico, charting the coastline all the while.
1596 Juan de Zaldivar explored the San Luis Valley of Colorado.
1598-1608 Don Juan de Onate brought first colony to New Mexico, and explored vast areas of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. He reached the South Sea in 1605, and signed his name at on Inscription Rock, now El Morro National Monument.
1598 Juan de Archuleta explored Colorado as far as Kiowa County.
1602 Sebasti·n VizcaÌno sailed up the coast of California, and named Monterey Bay, San Diego, San Clemente, Catalina, Santa Barbara, Point Concepcion, Carmel, Monterey, La Paz, and Ano Nuevo. VizcaÌno also tried unsuccessfully to colonize southern California.
1607 First permanent British colony founded by Capt. John Smith at Jamestown, VA.
1610 In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Spanish built the block long adobe Palace of the Governors.
1680 Tired of harsh treatment and religious intolerance, the Pueblo people band together under the leadership of a man named Pope and drive the Spanish from the New Mexico colonies. The rebels destroy and deface most of the Spanish churches.
1691-1695 Francisco de Vargas reconquered New Mexico and entered the San Luis Valley.
1687-1711 Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit priest, founded many missions and explored areas the PimerÌa Alta region of New Spain, including what are now northern Mexico, California, and Arizona. He founded his first mission in what is now Sonora, Mexico, then spent 25 years exploring and mapping the lands along the Rio Grande, the Colorado River, and the Gila River, traveling as far as the headwaters for the Rio Grande and the Gila.
1706 Juan de Ulibarri crossed Colorado as far as the Arkansas Valley into Kiowa County.
1719 Antonio Valverde y Cosio explored Colorado as far as the Platte River, and explored Kansas.
1720 Pedro de Villasu explored Colorado and Nebraska.
1765 Manuel de Rivera explored along what is now the Old Spanish Trail as far north as Delta CO.
1768-1770 Gaspar de Portol·, the Governor of Las Californias, founded Monterey and San Diego. In 1769, Portola led a large expedition, including Fray Junipero Serra, up the California coast to San Diego and Monterey in order to establish new Franciscan missions. They established San Diego in 1769, but could not find Monterey until 1670.
1768-1776 Father Francisco Tom·s GarcÈs explored Arizona, California, and the areas surrounding the Gila and Colorado rivers, While exploring the western Grand Canyon, he met the Hopi people and the Havasupai people . From 1768 to 1776, Father Garces explored with Juan Bautista de Anza and alone with native guides.
1769-1823 Father Junipero Serra founded many missions in Alta California (now the state of California), with the first in San Diego de Alcala and eight more north along the coast. Serra also helped an expedition in locating San Francisco.
1775 Juan Bautista de Anza and Francisco Tomas Graces explored a route from the presido of Tubac, Arizona, where de Anza was commander, overland to California. De Anza aalso founded the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.
Juan Perez sailed from Port San Blas, Mexico up the coast of North America , turning around by northern Vancouver Island.
1776 -1777 Fathers Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Francisco Dominguez along with 12 other men, formed an expedition to attempt a route to Monterey from Santa Fe. They traveled into Colorado, discovered and name the Dolores River, then got lost until Utes guided them to the Uncompahgre River, north to Rangeley CO , then west into Utah, across the Wasatch Mountains through Spanish Fork Canyon, and to Utah Lake. That winter they traveled south as far as Cedar City before returning to Santa Fe, crossing the Colorado River en route. They were the first Europeans in Utah.
1821 William Becknell led a group of traders from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the route that became the Santa Fe Trail.
1846 US forces led by General Stephen Kearny seize New Mexico, which surrenders without a shot being fired.
1848 Mexico signs the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which cedes lands in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico to the United States.