Today in the Middle Ages: June 18, 1541

Hernando de Soto, the Spanish-born explorer and conquistador, crossed the Mississippi River westward on or about June 18, 1541.

De Soto had reached the Mississippi a month earlier. He may have been the first European to see it, and was definitely the first to document his travel there. The banks were patrolled by Native Americans hostile to his mission, and he and his men had to construct floats.

De Soto explored west as far as the present-day state of Arkansas before turning back. He died near the Mississippi on the return journey in 1542.