Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle was the first European to travel the Mississippi River south to the Gulf, claiming all the land along the Mississippi and its tributaries for France in 1682. In 1685, he sailed from France with more than 300 colonists aboard four ships, La Belle among them, to establish a settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi.
Maps of the time show he believed the river was closer to Mexico, and his expedition missed the Mississippi by hundreds of miles.
"They were guessing," Bruseth said.
His team established a colony near Matagorda Bay, but it was ravaged by disease, rattlesnakes and Indians. Three years later, La Salle led a handful of survivors inland in search of the Mississippi. The explorer didn't make it out of Texas; he was murdered by his own men.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.