This timeline of the Portolá expedition tracks the progress during 1769 and 1770 of the first European exploration-by-land of north-western coastal areas in what became Las Californias , a province of Spanish colonial New Spain. Later, the region was administratively-split into Baja (lower, see Baja California peninsula) and Alta (upper, see Alta California). The first section of the march was on the Baja California peninsula, and the northern section of the expedition's trail was in today's US state of California.
Missionary Juan Crespi kept a diary describing the group's daily progress and detailed descriptions of their locations, allowing modern researchers to reconstruct their journey. Portions of other diaries by Gaspar de Portolá, engineer Miguel Costansó, missionary Junípero Serra, army officer Jose de Canizares, and Sergeant José Ortega also survived. When analyzed as a whole, they provide detailed daily information on the route traveled and camping locations, as well as descriptions of the country and its native inhabitants.
The Portolá expedition was the brainchild of José de Gálvez, visitador (inspector general, a personal representative of the king) in New Spain. On his recommendation, King Charles III of Spain authorized Gálvez to explore Alta California and establish the first permanent Spanish presence there.Gálvez was supported in the planning of an expedition by Carlos Francisco de Croix (Viceroy of New Spain), and Father Junípero Serra (head of the Franciscan mission to the Californias).
Gálvez and Serra met in November, 1768, to plan the expedition. The goals set were to establish two Presidios and nearby missions – at San Diego and Monterrey (one "r" has since been dropped). These places had been described and given names 166 years before by the maritime explorations of Sebastián Vizcaíno. In addition, the name San Carlos Borromeo was chosen for the mission at Monterrey.
Gálvez placed Gaspar de Portolá, recently appointed governor of Las Californias, in overall command of the expedition. Second in command was Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada, commander of the Presidio at Loreto. Serra headed the Franciscan missionary contingent. Three ships were also assigned: two to follow the land march up the coast and keep the expedition supplied from the naval depot at La Paz (on the Baja peninsula), and another ship to connect La Paz with the mainland at San Blas.
Elements of the land expedition gathered north of Loreto in March, 1769, and marched north-west to San Diego; then from San Diego to the San Francisco Peninsula and back. Rivera led the first group, consisting mainly of soldiers, scouts and engineers to prepare the road and deal with hostile natives. Portolá and Serra followed in a second group with the civilians, livestock and baggage. Serra stayed with the new mission in San Diego while Portolá and Rivera took a smaller group north.
Led by Rivera's scouts, the road followed established native paths as much as possible (the southern and central California coastal areas were found to have the densest native population of any region north of central Mexico), and blazing new trails where necessary. The two main requirements for a camping place were an adequate supply of drinkable fresh water and forage for the livestock. For that reason, most of the campsites were near creeks, ponds or springs. All three of the main land expedition diaries give daily distances traveled in leagues. As used at that time, one Spanish league equaled about 2.6 miles. A typical day's march covered 2–4 leagues, with frequent rest days.
The following year (1770), Portolá returned north as far as Monterrey to establish the second Presidio there and to establish a new provincial seat. Serra came north by sea to make the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del rio Carmelo (moved a few miles south from its original Monterrey location) his headquarters. Portolá's successor as governor, Pedro Fages, found an easier inland route later in 1770 from Monterrey to San Francisco Bay, and further explored the eastern side of the bay in 1772 (accompanied again by padre Juan Crespí, who again kept a diary).
The 1776 expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza used the official Portolá expedition report (drawn from the diaries) to follow mostly in the footsteps of Portolá from Mission San Gabriel to Monterrey, taking the Fages route from Monterrey to San Francisco Bay. Much of today's Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail in coastal California was previously the Portolá trail. Sixteen of the twenty-one Spanish Missions of California were established along the Portolá route.
The Crespí diary is the most complete of the three land expedition accounts, because Crespí was the only diarist present during the entire expedition. It includes nearly all of the information found in the other two, plus many extra details about the country and the native peoples. Herbert Bolton translated Crespi's diary to English and annotated it with modern references.Bolton added information about the modern campsite locations, as shown below. Bolton also included maps with his "best guess" of the expedition's march routes, superimposed on modern California maps.
In 2001, a new edition of the Crespí diary was published, with side-by-side Spanish and English text – both of Crespí's original field notes, and also his expanded rewrite for the later official version.
Vicente Vila, captain of the San Carlos — one of three ships supporting the expedition — also kept a diary that has survived, but he only sailed as far as San Diego, and never joined the expedition on land. Free online translations of both Vila's and Costansó's diaries are available.Fages also wrote, in 1775, an after-the fact account of the 1769–70 expedition.
The official report of the expedition is also available online.Written later by Carlos Francisco de Croix, marqués de Croix, the brief document drew on the diaries kept by the expedition participants.
Governor Portolá and the others in the land arm of the expedition departed from Loreto, Baja California (capital of Las Californias), about the same time the ships left La Paz (Loreto is about 150 miles north of La Paz). The rough-to-non-existent trail was over 400 miles from Loreto north to Velicatá, and land travel can't have been much faster than the 5–10 miles/day the diarists noted later on. The plan was for marchers and ships to reach San Diego at the same time but, as we'll see, the ships made much better time.
Several of the soldiers requested permission to go hunting, as many deer had been seen. Some of them went quite a long way from the camp and reached the top of the hills so that they did not return until after nightfall. They said that to the north of the bay they had seen an immense arm of the sea or estuary, which extended inland as far as they could see, to the southeast...
The hunters in this unnamed group were thus the first to report back to expedition leaders the sighting of San Francisco Bay. Ortega's scouts, however, because they left camp a day earlier, were probably the first to see the bay.
We conjectured also from these reports that the explorers could not have crossed to the opposite shore which was seen to the north, and consequently, would not succeed in exploring the point which we judge to be that of Los Reyes, for it would be impossible in the three days that they were to be gone to make the detour that they would unavoidably have to make to round the estuary, whose extent the hunters represented as being very great.
Crespí also quotes a revealing passage from the expedition's guidebook, in which Cabrera Bueno described what he called the "Bahia de San Francisco":
Through the opening in the center enters an estuary of salt water without any breaking of the waves at all, and by going in one will find friendly Indians and can easily take on water and wood.
Crespí thought that this passage described the entrance to the huge "estuary" the scouts had just found. If Crespí's interpretation was correct, then the discovery of San Francisco Bay happened many years earlier (Cabrera Bueno's Navegación Espéculativa y Práctica was published in 1734).
...below Monterey, which is the goal of our long journey, we recognize some marks, such as Sierra de Santa Lucia...and the Point of Pines. But no harbor at all is found...
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is a Spanish mission founded September 1, 1772 by Father Junípero Serra in San Luis Obispo, California. Named after Saint Louis of Anjou, the bishop of Toulouse, the mission is the namesake of San Luis Obispo. The mission offers public tours of the church and grounds.
Gaspar de Portolá y Rovira was a Spanish military officer, best known for leading the Portolá expedition into California and for serving as the first Governor of the Californias. His expedition laid the foundations of important Californian cities like San Diego and Monterey, and bestowed names to geographic features throughout California, many of which are still in use.
Año Nuevo State Park is a state park of California, United States, encompassing Año Nuevo Island and Año Nuevo Point, which are known for their pinniped rookeries. Located in San Mateo County, the low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean about 55 miles (89 km) south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. Año Nuevo State Natural Reserve, formerly a separate unit of the California state park system, was merged into Año Nuevo State Park in October 2008. The coastal geographic center, or coastal-midpoint of California is located at the Northern end of this park at N 37°09′58″, W 122°21'40", as the absolute geographic center of California falls at N 37°09′58″, W 119°26′58″W.
El Camino Real is a 600-mile (965-kilometer) commemorative route connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California, along with a number of sub-missions, four presidios, and three pueblos. Sometimes associated with Calle Real, its southern end is at Mission San Diego de Alcalá and its northern terminus is at Mission San Francisco Solano.
The Presidio of Monterey (POM), located in Monterey, California, is an active US Army installation with historic ties to the Spanish colonial era. Currently, it is the home of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLI-FLC). It is the last and only Presidio in California to have an active military installation.
The Santa Lucia Mountains or Santa Lucia Range is a rugged mountain range in coastal central California, running from Carmel southeast for 140 miles (230 km) to the Cuyama River in San Luis Obispo County. The range is never more than 11 miles (18 km) from the coast. The range forms the steepest coastal slope in the contiguous United States. Cone Peak at 5,158 feet (1,572 m) tall and three miles (5 km) from the coast, is the highest peak in proximity to the ocean in the lower 48 United States. The range was a barrier to exploring the coast of central California for early Spanish explorers.
Pedro Fages (1734–1794) was a Spanish soldier, explorer, first Lieutenant Governor of the Californias under Gaspar de Portolá. Fages claimed the governorship after Portolá's death, acting as governor in opposition to the official governor Felipe de Barri, and later served officially as fifth (1782–91) Governor of the Californias.
Joan Crespí or Juan Crespí was a Franciscan missionary and explorer of Las Californias.
The Portolá expedition was a Spanish voyage of exploration in 1769–1770 that was the first recorded European land entry and exploration of the interior of the present-day U.S. state of California. It was led by Gaspar de Portolá, governor of Las Californias, the Spanish colonial province that included California, Baja California, and other parts of present-day Mexico and the United States. The expedition led to the founding of Alta California and contributed to the solidification of Spanish territorial claims in the disputed and unexplored regions along the Pacific coast of North America.
Jolon is small unincorporated village in southern Monterey County, California. Jolon is located in the San Antonio River Valley, west of Salinas Valley.
The San Luis Rey River is a river in northern San Diego County, California.
The Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio was a 74,000-acre (300 km2) Spanish land grant to José Francisco Ortega in 1794 and is the only land grant made under Spanish and confirmed by USA in 1866 to Jose Maria Ortega.under the US Supreme Court rule in what is today Santa Barbara County, California. A Mexican title was granted to Antonio Maria Ortega in 1834 by Mexican Governor José Figueroa. The grant extended along the Pacific coast from Cojo Canyon east of Point Conception, past Arroyo Hondo and Tajiguas Canyon, to Refugio Canyon, including what is now Gaviota Coast.
Montara State Beach is a beach located in the coastal region of the U.S. state of California, eight miles north of Half Moon Bay on State Route 1. It is operated by the California State Department of Parks and Recreation under the San Mateo Coast Sector Office. It is one of the cleanest beaches in the state and is known for surfing and fishing.
Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada was a Mexican-born soldier of the Spanish Empire who served in The Californias, the far north-western frontier of New Spain. He participated in several early overland explorations and later served as third Governor of The Californias, from 1774–1777.
Francesc Palou or Francisco Palóu (1723–1789) was a Spanish Franciscan missionary, administrator and historian on the Baja California Peninsula and in Alta California. Palóu made significant contributions to the Alta California and Baja California mission systems. Along with his mentor, Junípero Serra, Palóu worked to build numerous missions throughout Alta and Baja California, many structures of which still stand today. A member of the Franciscan Order, Palóu became "Presidente" of the missions in Baja California, and later of missions of Alta California. Palóu's work in the Spanish mission system spans from his early twenties to his death at the age of 66.
The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site is a marker commemorating the first recorded European sighting of San Francisco Bay. In 1769, the Portola expedition traveled north by land from San Diego, seeking to establish a base at the Port of Monterey described by Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. When they reached Monterey, however, they were not sure it was the right place and decided to continue north. The party reached San Pedro Creek on October 31 and camped there for four nights, while scouts led by José Francisco Ortega climbed Sweeney Ridge, where they could see over the ridge toward the east, and so became the first Europeans to see San Francisco Bay on November 1.
Blanco is an unincorporated community in Monterey County, California. It is located on the Salinas River, around the Blanco Road crossing, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) west of Salinas, at an elevation of 23 feet.
Rancho Punta del Año Nuevo was a 17,753-acre (71.84 km2) Mexican land grant in present day San Mateo County, California given in 1842 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to Simeon Castro. At the time, the grant was in Santa Cruz County; an 1868 boundary adjustment gave the land to San Mateo County. The grant extended along the Pacific coast from Rancho Butano and Arroyo de los Frijoles on the north, past Pigeon Point, Franklin Point to Point Año Nuevo on the south.
The Portolá Trail Campsite or Portolá Trail Campsite No. 1 is the spot of the first Europeans to travel and camp overnight in what is now Central Los Angeles, California. The Portolá expedition camped at the site on August 2, 1769. The Portolá Trail Campsite No. 1 was designated a California Historic Landmark (No.655) on Sept. 26, 1958. The Portolá Trail Campsite is located in what is now the Elysian Park entrance, at the NW corner of North Broadway and Elysian Park Drive in the City of Los Angeles in Los Angeles County. The campsite is near the Los Angeles River, which they used as their water supply for the camp. Military officer Gaspar de Portolá was the commander of the expedition for the Spanish Empire with the goal of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The expedition led to the founding of the first mission in the Los Angeles Basin, the Mission Vieja, on September 8, 1771 and of Alta California. The expedition arrived at Portolá Trail Campsite No. 1 from the San Gabriel Valley, were the Mission San Gabriel would be built later in 1776. As they depart Portolá Trail Campsite No. 1 they traveled west towards Santa Monica Bay, stopping at Portolá Trail Campsite 2, which is in present day Beverly Hills. Portolá Trail Campsite 2 is also a California Historic Landmark (No.665). At San Monica Bay the expedition turned and traveled north to were the future Mission San Fernando would be built in 1797. Form San Fernando the expedition turned west to Ventura, the site of the future Mission San Buenaventura built in 1782.
The Portolá Trail Campsite 2 or Portolá Trail Campsite No. 2 is the spot of the first Europeans to travel and camp overnight in what is now Beverly Hills, California. The Portolá expedition camped at the site on August 3, 1769. The Portolá Trail Campsite No. 2 was designated a California Historic Landmark (No.665) on Nov. 5, 1958. The Portolá Trail Campsite is located in what is now 325 South La Cienega Boulevard between Olympic Boulevard and Gregory, in Beverly Hills. in Los Angeles County. Military officer Gaspar de Portolá was the commander of the expedition for the Spanish Empire with the goal of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The expedition led to the founding of the first mission in the Los Angeles Basin, the Mission Vieja, on September 8, 1771, and of Alta California. The expedition arrived at Portolá Trail Campsite No. 2 from the Portolá Trail Campsite No. 1 in what is now Elysian Park. They came to camp site 1 from the San Gabriel Valley, were the Mission San Gabriel would be built later in 1776. As they depart Portolá Trail Campsite No. 2 they traveled west towards Santa Monica Bay. At San Monica Bay the expedition turned and traveled north to were the future Mission San Fernando would be built in 1797. Form San Fernando the expedition turned west to Ventura, the site of the future Mission San Buenaventura built in 1782.