Exploration of the Far West, 1741-1821


Area units:
Land and water areas are coloured according to the time period in which they were explored or mapped with reasonable correctness by Europeans.

Data units:
Primary exploration routes are shown, and coloured according to the country for which the exploration was undertaken.


Legend Description

Area explored and mapped by Europeans
This map depicts the growth of European knowledge about the geography of northern North America. European knowledge of land and water features was gained through direct exploration, as well as through documented descriptions from native North Americans. This knowledge of the land was represented in the historical maps of the period. The area explored and mapped shown on this map was compiled using known primary exploration routes, as well as the historical cartographic record to determine when parts of North America became known to Europeans.

Primary exploration routes
The primary routes shown on this map do not represent all exploration routes for the time period. Rather, they are routes which were well documented in the historical record, often as the first routes into unexplored regions, or routes which deepened knowledge about an area. They are coloured according to their country of origin, or in the case of Britain, also by the sponsoring fur-trade company.



This layer shows black outline shapes on the map which represent the approximate areas covered by selected historical maps from the time period. These maps were used in the compilation of "Area explored and mapped by Europeans ". The shapes may be rectangular or distorted depending on the accuracy of the original map, as well as its map projection. The name of the cartographer and the date the original map was published are shown in the upper left corner of the map area. Use the Related Materials drop-down menu in the topbar above the map to choose one of these maps from the list. This will pop up a new window showing a redrawn version of the map you have chosen, as well as a reproduction of the original.

This folder contains layers showing primary exploration routes for the time periods listed. The layers can be viewed individually or together. The combined Primary Exploration Routes is the active layer. See explanation in Active Tools below.
This folder contains layers viewable for reference purposes.
This layer shows a selection of rivers and lakes in addition to the major features shown by default.
This layer shows current Canadian provincial and territorial boundaries, as well as selected cities.


Active Tools

Zoom In: Zoom in to see more detail. Labels appear for exploration routes (showing explorer's last name(s) and the date of the exploration), and selected rivers and waterbodies.
The active layers in this map are in the PRIMARY EXPLORATION ROUTES folder. Use the tools below to get data about the exploration routes in these layers.

Identify: Click on the Identify tool, then click on the map on one of the exploration routes, to pop up a box showing the explorer's name and date.

Table: Click on the Table tool, then click or drag a rectangle on the map across one or more exploration routes, to select routes and pop up a table showing information about the selected routes. See Table Fields below.

Query: Click on the Query tool, to pop up a Query box. Use the input boxes to specify selection criteria and click "Submit query" to select routes and pop up a table showing information about the selected routes. See Table Fields below.



Explorer Full name of the explorer(s).
Dates The year(s) in which the exploration took place.
Country The country of origin of the exploration.
Purpose or sponsor Exploration occurred for many purposes, and any journey usually had more than one: the search for new trade routes, the expansion of colonial territories, the pursuit of wealth, or a combination of military, missionary or scientific reasons, were often involved. This field identifies the main purpose or sponsor of an expedition; when unspecified the general term "Exploration" is used.
Data files available: Exploration_Far_West_1741_1821.xls