For thousands of years, the Native Americans were the only people to live in California. That all changed in the 1500's as Europeans began exploring North America. Spain sent explorers to North America in an attempt to find a quick, passage to Asia to improve trade. It was thought that a fast way to Asia could be found through North America, so explorers were sent to find that passage. No such passage existed, however.

Spain created a colony in what is now Mexico and named it New Spain. From there, they could venture northward and explore California. In order to settle the land, good bays were needed to protect the sailing ships once they were docked. More explorers were sent to find good harbors at which Spain could begin settlements. Ships were torn apart by storms and rocky shores, and the efforts were given up. For over 150 years, Spain left California alone and the Native Americans were able to continue their existence with very little interference.


Use the following links to find out more about the first explorers to visit California from Europe.


Hernan Cortes
-he defeated the Aztecs and helped establish New Spain

Hernando Cortes
Cortes Fact Sheet
Cortes arrives in Mexico
Hernan Cortes-Conquistador
Hernando Cortes-Historical Text



Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
-he was sent to find the Strait of Anian to improve trade with the Philippines


Discoverer's Web: Cabrillo
The Journey of Juan Cabrillo
Summary of Cabrillo's Journey
Information from Cabrillo National Monument
Bartolome Ferrelo-took over after Cabrillo's death



Sir Francis Drake
-he was sent by the Queen of England to find the Northwest Passage, the same passage Spain called the Strait of Anian



Sir Francis Drake
Drake the Explorer
Drake's Trip Around the World
Drake and the Native People of Nova Albion
Drake's Life-Written by Elementary Aged Students



Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno
-he was sent to search California for a safe harbor using the Manila galleon of 1595


Cermeno and Vizcaino
The Wreck of the San Agustin
Brief Information about Sebastian Cermeno







Sebastian Vizcaino
-he was sent to search California for a safe harbor


Answers.Com-Sebastian Vizcaino
Brief Notes-Sebastian Vizcaino
Biographical Notes-Sebastian Vizcaino
San Diego Biographies-Sebastian Vizcaino



Jose' de Galvez
-he encouraged Spain to settle California and his plan including builing the missions in California


Brief highlights of Galvez
Organizing the Expedition
Jose' de Galvez from Wikipedia
Jose' de Galvez from Fact Monster



Gaspar de Portola
-he was the leader of the Galvez Expedition and was later sent to find Monterey Bay


Monument to Portola
Biography of Portola
Portola from Fact Monster
The Portola Expedition of 1769
Gaspar de Portola from Wikipedia




More Links about Settling California

Spanish California
European Exploration of California
History of California from Wikipedia
Explorers and Conquistadors of Mexico
Settling the Pacific Northwest before America
Exploration and Settling of the Monterey Area
Interactive Site of the Anza Expedition to Settle California