Escalante, Silvestre Vélez de [key], fl. 1769–79, Spanish explorer in the American Southwest and Far West, a Franciscan missionary. He was in charge of Pueblo missions in present New Mexico and led the expedition that hoped to establish overland communications with Monterey in Alta California. A preliminary journey in 1775 took him to the Hopi towns in N Arizona, and in 1776 he led an expedition from Santa Fe that crossed land that is now Colorado and part of Utah, reaching Utah Lake—the first white men known to have seen the Utah country. Mountain snows in the Sierra Nevada prevented him from going on to California, and with great hardship the party returned to Santa Fe. Escalante kept a singularly accurate journal, which was signed also by his associate and superior, Francisco Atanasio Domínguez.
See H. Bolton, ed., Pageant in the Wilderness (1951).
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