The discovery of the lands of New France occurred in several stages. Through the voyages of Giovanni da Verrazzano and Jacques Cartier, Newfoundland and the islands, the coast of Acadia and the tributaries of the St. Lawrence were well known in the 16th century. Then, starting from Québec and Montréal, Samuel de Champlain travelled up the Ottawa River to the Great Lakes. Explorations continued with new vigour with the establishment of the first permanent settlements. But the great attraction was the West: Étienne Brûlé reached Lake Superior in the early 1620s; Jean Nicollet reached Lake Michigan in 1634, after living many years among the Aboriginal peoples. In 1647, Père de Quen travelled up the Saguenay River to Lac Saint-Jean. A second wave of exploration took place in the last half of the 17th century with Daniel Greysolon Dulhut, Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit Radisson, Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, then René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle. In the 18th century, the La Vérendrye family reached the Great Plains of the West. With the voyages, maps became more accurate; some travellers, such as Louis Lom d'Ace de Lahontan and Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix, described the flora and fauna they encountered, as well as the customs of the various Aboriginal nations. These explorations had several goals: the discovery of the "Western Sea," the fur trade, the conversion of the Aboriginal peoples, and the search for minerals. The royal administration did not always support these bold and arduous undertakings. In a century and a half, the voyages brought about the discovery of an immense region of land.

Carte de la Nouvelle-France [Map of New France] of Samuel de Champlain, published in Les Voyages de la Nouvelle France occidentale, dicte Canada, 1632
CA ANC NMC-51970
Cartographic Compilation
Cartography of Discoveries
The Colonies of North America
The Advantages of Canada
The Voyage of Minet
Niagara Falls
The Western Sea
The Flora and Fauna