On July 6, 1669, La Salle set out with his first expedition to explore the region he had heard of. He put together a group of twenty-four men and canoes and set off up the St. Lawrence River and into Lake Ontario. After thirty-five days they reached the mouth of the Seneca River on the south shore of Lake Ontario. A Seneca village was located there, but they discouraged him from continuing his expedition westward and told him his presence in the Ohio Country would be unwelcome. Despite their warning and refusal to provide a guide, he continued towards the Niagara River where he encountered a group of Seneca returning to their territory with a Pottawatomie prisoner captured in a raid. He paid a ransom for the captive after he agreed to lead the explorers into the Ohio Country. The actual routes of La Salles' early expeditions are not geographically known, it reported from second hand descriptions.
From there the party continued westward overland reaching Lake Erie where they turned toward the south. If Lasalle struck Lake Erie near present day Erie, PA, The party would have been west of the Allegheny range. They continued moving overland until they reached a branch of the Ohio River which they canoed down to reach the main channel of the river. One possible route would have been up the Grand River, and then a short expedition over the established portage trail to the Mahoning River. Upon reaching the Ohio, in the area of modern western Pennsylvania, it would have been obvious that the expedition had reached a major river, rivaling the size of the largest European rivers. La Salle continued downstream and westward reaching the Falls of the Ohio near modern Louisville, Kentucky. There his men refused to go further and deserted him to return to Canada. La Salle continued to explore only briefly on his own, and returned to Canada on his own.
During his trip, his group became the first Europeans to see the Ohio River. He had also traveled further into the Ohio country than any previous expeditions. Despite his lack of success in finding the "southern sea", what he did find only intrigued him more and he soon decided that he wanted to launch a second attempt to find the outlet of the river.
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