Wyoming Spanish Exploration
A number of mid- to late-sixteenth-century conquistador expeditions northward from central Mexico led to the founding of the province of Nuevo Mexico, which extended to Colorado and parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming. Exploration and conquest gave way to seventeenth-century colonization. From the Taos and Santa Fe area, many certified and noncertified expeditions north, east, and west were motivated by a desire for diplomacy, war, and trade with the diverse indigenous peoples and competing European powers.
Some speculate that Mexican-Native American scouts and Spanish traders may have explored the North Platte River into Wyoming at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The latter half of the eighteenth century saw travel northwestward into the heart of Ute tribal homelands to formalize trade relations and carve out a trail to the Pacific coast. The Dominguez-Escalante expedition of 1776-1777 is the best-documented northwestward trek from Santa Fe. In addition, Spanish frontiersmen’s unofficial geographic knowledge of southern Colorado helped confront, defeat, and pacify warring Comanche tribal bands that roamed north into southern Wyoming.