In letter to king of Spain, Coronado is first to describe Llano Estacado

October 20th, 1541

On this day in 1541, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, in a letter to the king of Spain, became the first man to describe the vast Llano Estacado. The Llano Estacado (Staked Plains), the southern extension of the High Plains of North America, is a high mesa lying south of the Canadian River in northwest Texas and northeast New Mexico. Coronado had been appointed in 1540 to lead an expedition to the Seven Cities of Cíbola, wondrous tales of which had been brought to Mexico by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Coronado found no gold at Cíbola, in western New Mexico, but he was led on by stories of Quivira, a region far to the east. It was during his search for Quivira that Coronado came upon the Llano Estacado, which he described thus: "I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for more than 300 leagues ... with no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea .... [T]here was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by." Future explorers echoed his impressions of the region, and development did not begin until the 1870s, though it proceeded rapidly thereafter. Indeed, the Llano witnessed the most rapid development of any section of the state, progressing from an economy based on unfenced public grazing land to a modern industrial economy within half a century. The region's population in 1880 was only 1,081; a century later it was more than 900,000.

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In letter to king of Spain, Coronado is first to describe Llano Estacado

October 20th, 1541

On this day in 1541, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, in a letter to the king of Spain, became the first man to describe the vast Llano Estacado. The Llano Estacado (Staked Plains), the southern extension of the High Plains of North America, is a high mesa lying south of the Canadian River in northwest Texas and northeast New Mexico. Coronado had been appointed in 1540 to lead an expedition to the Seven Cities of Cíbola, wondrous tales of which had been brought to Mexico by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Coronado found no gold at Cíbola, in western New Mexico, but he was led on by stories of Quivira, a region far to the east. It was during his search for Quivira that Coronado came upon the Llano Estacado, which he described thus: "I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for more than 300 leagues ... with no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea .... [T]here was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by." Future explorers echoed his impressions of the region, and development did not begin until the 1870s, though it proceeded rapidly thereafter. Indeed, the Llano witnessed the most rapid development of any section of the state, progressing from an economy based on unfenced public grazing land to a modern industrial economy within half a century. The region's population in 1880 was only 1,081; a century later it was more than 900,000.

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

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With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
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