Louis Hennepin (1626-1705), the Flemish Recollect friar and explorer, was the first European to explore the upper Mississippi River.
Hennepin was born in Ath, Belgium on 12 May 1626. He travelled to Québec in 1675, where, for the next two years, he worked as a missionary among the Iroquois Indians.
In 1678 he accompanied the French explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, on an expedition through the Great Lakes to the Illinois River, on the banks of which they built Fort Creve Coeur, near the site of present-day Peoria. From there Hennepin was sent by La Salle on a voyage to explore the upper Mississippi River, which he did by canoe. Hennepin explored and named the Falls of Saint Anthony (present-day Minneapolis, Minnesota).
Proceeding further, he was captured by Sioux Indians, with whom he lived until his rescue the following year by a French exploring party from the Lake Superior region. After returning to France in 1683, Father Hennepin published “A Description of Louisiana”, an account of his travels, which was later exposed as plagiarism of La Salle's own accounts. For offering La Salle's narrative as his own and for claiming to have discovered the mouth of the Mississippi, Hennepin was exiled from France.
He later wrote “A New Voyage” (1696) and “A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America” (1697).