Gaspar de Portolá

Gaspar de Portolá y Rovira (1723–1786) was a Spanish soldier and administrator in New Spain. As commander of the Spanish colonizing expedition on land and sea that established San Diego and Monterey, Portolá expanded New Spain's Las Californias province far to the north from its beginnings on the Baja California peninsula. Portolá's expedition also was the first European to see San Francisco Bay. The expedition gave names to geographic features along the way, many of which are still in use.[1]

Gaspar de Portolá
Gaspar de Portolá
Governor of the Californias
In office
November 30, 1767 to July 9, 1770
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byPedro Fages
Personal details
Os de Balaguer, Catalonia, Spain
Lleida, Catalonia, Spain
Resting placeLleida
Gaspar de Portolá's signature
Military service
Branch/serviceEmblem of the Spanish Army.svg Army of Spain
RankOficial3.png Captain

Early life

Portolá was born on January 1, 1716 in Os de Balaguer, in Catalonia, Spain, of Catalan nobility. Don Gaspar served as a soldier in the Spanish army in Italy and Portugal. He was commissioned ensign in 1734, and lieutenant in 1743.

Expulsion of the Jesuits

Beginning in 1684, Jesuit missionaries started establishing missions on the Baja California Peninsula. Later, rumors circulated that the Jesuits had amassed a fortune and were becoming very powerful. As part of the nearly global suppression of the Jesuits, King Carlos III ordered the Jesuits expelled and deported to the Papal States on the Italian peninsula. Following the command of the king, the Viceroy of New Spain ordered the arrest and deportation of all Jesuits in missions. Portolá was sent and charged with the expulsion of the Jesuits. The missions were turned over to the Franciscans, and later to the Dominicans.

Expedition to expand Las Californias to the north

Spain was driven to establish missions and other outposts on the Pacific Coast north of the Baja California Peninsula by fears that the territory would be claimed by foreign powers. The English, who had established colonies on the East Coast of the continent and north into what is now Canada, had also sent explorers into the Pacific. Russian fur hunters were pressing east from Siberia across the Bering Strait into the Aleutian Islands and beyond.

Dispatches of January 23, 1768, exchanged between King Carlos and the viceroy, set the wheels in motion to extend Spain's control up the Pacific Coast and establish colonies and missions at San Diego Bay and Monterey Bay, which had been discovered and described in reports by earlier explorers Juan Cabrillo and Sebastián Vizcaíno. Vizcaíno had mapped the California coastline as far north as Monterey in 1602, but not much more was done until 166 years later. In May 1768, the Spanish Visitor General, José de Gálvez, began to organize an expedition, by sea and by land. Portolá was created "Governor of the Californias" and given overall command. Junípero Serra, leader of the expedition's Franciscan missionaries, took command of spiritual matters. Sea and land detachments were to meet at San Diego Bay.

The first ship, the San Carlos, sailed from La Paz on January 10, 1769 and a second, the San Antonio sailed from Cabo San Lucas on February 15. At the same time, the various elements of the land parties began to move north from Loreto, Baja California Sur. The land expedition was assembled at Velicatá, where Serra established his first new mission. From there, Portolá's plan called for splitting the land expedition in two. The lead group, charged with building a wagon trail and pacifying the natives, was led by Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada, and departed from Velicatá on March 24. With Rivera was the priest Juan Crespí, diarist for the Franciscans. The expedition led by Portolá, which included Junípero Serra (the President of the Missions), along with a combination of missionaries, settlers, and leather-jacket soldiers, including José Raimundo Carrillo, left Velicata on May 15. Junípero Serra founded two more missions during the expedition: San Diego de Alcalá on July 16, 1769 and Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo on June 3, 1770.

Portolá 1769 - Commemorative plaque situated in Elysian Park, Los Angeles

Rivera reached the site of present-day San Diego in May, established a camp in the area that is now Old Town and awaited the arrival of the others. Because of an error by Vizcaíno in determining the latitude of the San Diego Harbor, the ships passed by it and landed too far north before finding their way back. The San Antonio arrived on April 11 and the San Carlos, the first ship to leave La Paz, having met with fierce winds and storms on the journey, arrived on April 29. A third vessel was to follow with supplies, but it was probably lost at sea. The land expedition of Portolá arrived on June 29. After their arduous journeys, most of the men aboard ship were ill, chiefly from scurvy, and many had died. Out of a total of 219 who left Baja California, little more than 100 now survived.

Eager to press on to Monterey Bay, Portolá and his expedition, consisting of Juan Crespí, 63 leather-jacket soldiers and 100 mules loaded down with provisions, headed north on July 14, 1769. Marching two to four leagues (1 league = 2.6 miles) a day, they reached the site of present-day Fullerton, at Hillcrest Park on July 30, 1769. They next traveled to Brea Canyon, in Brea, California, on July 31, 1769. They arrived in what is now Los Angeles on August 2. The following day, they marched out the Indian trail that would one day become Wilshire Boulevard to the present site of Santa Monica. Winding around to the area of later Saugus, now part of Santa Clarita, they reached the area to become Santa Barbara on August 19, and the present day San Simeon area on September 13. Unable to remain on the coast due to the steep, difficult terrain, the party turned inland. They marched through the San Antonio Valley and on October 1, Portolá's party emerged from the Santa Lucia Mountains and reached the mouth of the Salinas River.

After a march of some 400 miles (640 km) from San Diego and about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from Velicatá, they had reached the bay they were seeking. But they failed to discern the coastline's semi-circular shape, described by Vizcaíno as round like an "O", even though members of the party had twice marched along its beach. Having failed to find their goal, they marched on north and reached the area at the north end of the bay, where Crespi named a creek Santa Cruz on October 18. Pushing on, they reached the San Francisco Bay area on October 31, and explored and named many localities in the region south of what would eventually become known as the Golden Gate.

They then marched back to San Diego, again failing to find Vizcaino's harbor on their way south. Surviving on mule meat for most of the journey, they arrived on January 24, 1770.

CHL #2 Portolá Journey's End

Second expedition

One of Portolá's officers, Captain Vicente Vila, convinced him that he had actually been exactly on the Bay of Monterey when he placed his second cross at what later became Pacific Grove. After replenishing supplies at San Diego, Portolá and Serra decided on a joint expedition by land and sea to again search for the bay and establish a colony if they were successful. The San Antonio sailed on April 16, 1770. On board were Serra, Miguel Costansó, military engineer and cartographer, and Doctor Pedro Prat, army surgeon, along with a cargo of supplies for the new mission at Monterey. On April 17, after mustering what forces he could, Portolá's land expedition, which included lieutenant Pedro Fages, 12 Spanish volunteers, seven leather-jacket soldiers, five Baja California Indians, two muleteers, and Juan Crespí serving as the expedition's chaplain, again marched north.

The expedition followed the same route they had the previous winter while returning to San Diego. After 36 days on the road, with only two days of rest, Portolà arrived at his second cross on May 24, 1770. He then saw that on a clear day and from a certain point of view the round harbor assumed the proportions described by the earlier enthusiastic explorers. Having recognized the bay, a Mass was conducted near the oak tree that the Carmelite missionaries with Vizcaíno had worshiped under in 1603, and possession was officially taken. On June 3, 1770, they laid the beginnings of the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo and founded the Presidio of Monterey.

Later career

Governor Portolá's task was finished. He then left Captain Pedro Fages in charge, and on June 9 he sailed for San Blas, never to return to Upper California. In 1776, Portolá was appointed the governor of Puebla. After the appointment of his successor in 1784, he was advanced money for expenses and returned to Spain, where he served as commander of the Numancia cavalry dragoon regiment. On February 7, 1786 he was appointed King's Lieutenant for the strongholds and castles of Lleida. He died that same year, in October.


Gaspar de Portola statue
Statue of Gaspar de Portolá, by the sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs

A 9 ft (2.7 m) statue in Pacifica, California was sculpted by the Catalan sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs and his associate, Francesc Carulla. It was given to the State of California by the Catalan regional government in 1988.

The city of Portola in Plumas County,[2] the town of Portola Valley in San Mateo County, and the Portola neighborhood of San Francisco were named after Portolà. A number of schools in California were also named after him, including Portola Hills Elementary School in Portola Hills, Portola Elementary School in San Bruno, Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito, Gaspar de Portola Middle School in Tierrasanta, Portola Middle School in Tarzana, and Portola Middle School in Orange. The school in Orange is close to the spot where the expedition crossed the Santa Ana River, and the school has a 60-foot mural depicting the Portola Expedition.

Portola Parkway running through Irvine and Lake Forest (though not connected as of 2018), was also named after Portolà. It is said that Portolà used the same route Portola Parkway now runs across. Portola Drive, which runs parallel to and near the Monterey Bay shoreline, is the main street of the Pleasure Point area of Santa Cruz County. Portola Avenue is also a north-south street located in Palm Desert in the Coachella Valley.

In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS Gaspar de Portola was named in his honor.


  1. ^, Gaspar de Portolá i Rovira
  2. ^ Brown, Thomas P. (May 30, 1940). "Over the Sierra". Indian Valley Record. p. 3. Retrieved 7 May 2015.

Further reading

  • Crespí, Juan; Alan K Brown (2001). A Description of Distant Roads: Original Journals of the First Expedition into California, 1769–1770. San Diego: San Diego State University Press. ISBN 1-879691-64-7.
  • Nuttall, Donald A. (1971). "Gaspar de Portolá: Disenchanted Conquistador of Spanish Upper California". Southern California Quarterly. 53 (3): 185–198.

External links

Blanco, Monterey County, California

Blanco (formerly, Blanco Crossing) is an unincorporated community in Monterey County, California. It is located on the Salinas River, around the Blanco Road crossing, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) west of Salinas, at an elevation of 23 feet (7 m).

Conejo Valley

The Conejo Valley is a region spanning both southeastern Ventura County and northwestern Los Angeles County in Southern California, United States. It is located in the northwestern part of the Greater Los Angeles Area.

Communities in Conejo Valley are Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Westlake Village, Oak Park, Agoura Hills, Lake Sherwood and a portion of Calabasas.

El Camino Real (California)

El Camino Real (Spanish; literally The Royal Road, often translated as The King's Highway), sometimes associated with Calle Real (within the US state of California), usually refers to the 600-mile (965-kilometer) road connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California (formerly Alta California), along with a number of sub-missions, four presidios, and three pueblos, stretching at its southern end from the San Diego area Mission San Diego de Alcalá, all of the way up to the trail's northern terminus at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, just above San Francisco Bay.

The meaning of the term "Camino Real" has in fact changed over time. In earlier Spanish colonial times, any road under the direct jurisdiction of the Spanish crown and its viceroys was considered to be a camino real. Examples of such roads ran between principal settlements throughout Spain and its colonies such as New Spain. Most caminos reales had names apart from the appended camino real. Once Mexico won its independence from Spain, no road in Mexico, including California, was a camino real. The name was rarely used after that and was only revived in the American period in connection with the boosterism associated with the Mission Revival movement of the early 20th century.

The original route begins in Baja California Sur, Mexico, at the site of Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, present day Loreto, (the first mission successfully established in Las Californias). Today, many streets throughout California that either follow or run parallel to this historic route still bear the "El Camino Real" name. Some of the original route has also been continually upgraded until it is now part of the modern California freeway system. The route is roughly traced by a series of commemorative bell markers.

Fernando Rivera y Moncada

Fernando Javier Rivera y Moncada (c. 1725 – July 18, 1781), born in Mexico, was a soldier of the Spanish Empire in New Spain. He served in the far north-western frontier of New Spain, in The Californias (Las Californias), participating in several early overland explorations. Fernando Rivera y Moncada served as third Governor of The Californias, from 1774–1777.

Interstate 380 (California)

Interstate 380 (I-380) is a short 1.7-mile (2.7 km) east–west spur Interstate Highway in the San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, connecting Interstate 280 in San Bruno to U.S. Route 101 near the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The highway primarily consists of only three intersections: I-280, El Camino Real (State Route 82), and U.S. 101. Like the nearby I-280, I-380 never connects to Interstate 80, its parent Interstate Highway. However, there is no rule that says that spur routes need to (Similarly, the spur route Interstate 795 branches off from Interstate 695, a beltway around Baltimore, and is only indirectly linked to Interstate 95.).

I-380 is officially known as the Quentin L. Kopp Freeway, named after the prominent California State Senator from San Mateo County. This highway was previously named the Portola Freeway to honor the eighteenth-century Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá, whose expedition in 1769-70 discovered the San Francisco Bay, from a viewpoint on the Sweeney Ridge located between San Bruno and Pacifica.

List of Governors of California before 1850

For the Governors of California since 1850, see List of Governors of California.

Below is a list of the Governors of early California (1769–1850), before its admission as the 31st U.S. state. First explored by Gaspar de Portolá, with colonies established at San Diego and Monterey, California was a remote, sparsely-settled Spanish province of New Spain. In 1822, following the Mexican independence, California became part of Mexico.

In 1836, a coup led by Californios Juan Bautista Alvarado and Jose Castro eventually resulted in Alvarado becoming governor. That conflict ended in 1838, when the central government of Mexico recognized Alvarado as California Governor. The territorial diputación (legislature) approved the appointment.

Another disputed governorship occurred in 1844, settled when another Californio, Pio Pico, became the last Governor of Mexican California. In 1846, the "Bear Flag Revolt" in Sonoma declared California an independent republic—the "Bear Flag Republic". No government was formed, however, and the revolt did not have time to spread very far because, than a month later, California came under U.S. military protection at the outset of the Mexican–American War. California was ceded to the U.S. in 1848, and was admitted as the 31st U.S. state on September 9, 1850. Peter Burnett, the last governor of the post-war military territory, became its first state governor after admission.

Matías de Armona

Matías de Armona also Don Matías de Armona was a governor of Las Californias, serving from June 12, 1769 to November 9, 1770, during Spanish Empire colonial rule of New Spain

In order to obtain an improvement in tax collection without waiting for royal approval, Jose de Galvez, visitor-general to New Spain, appointed Matias de Armona governor of the settled areas of Las Californias, which at that time included only the lower two-thirds of the Baja California peninsula. The appointment also freed up the current governor Gaspar de Portolá to travel north as leader of the Portolá expedition, whose aim was to establish presidios (forts) at San Diego and Monterey. At the same time, Franciscan missionaries led by Junípero Serra established missions in those two places.

Matías de Armona arrived in Loreto in June 1769, from Spain, along with his brother Francisco de Armona. Armona's offices remained in the capital of Loreto, and he did not have much power in the new "Alta" (upper) California areas, even though he was technically the civil governor of all of Las Californias. There was as yet no "civil" to govern in the new settlements, just military and missionary - each of which governed their own affairs. When Portolá left Monterey in 1770, he appointed his 3rd-in-command Pedro Fages to be military governor of the new settlements. The military governor ruled from the Monterey Presidio, and Monterey became the new capital of Las Californias.

Armona did not have his heart in the new appointment as governor, a job he did not want. Shortly after arriving in Baja, he set out for Sonora to see visitor-general José de Gálvez, and remained absent from Loreto for a year. In that year, there were many troubles. There was small native revolt at Todos Santos.; also fever and measles outbreaks. José de Gálvez, on tour of the missions, had ordered such harsh punishment to the native neophytes that Armona had Loreto locked down at the news.After his replacement as civil governor of the southern areas by Felipe de Barri, Armona departed Loreto on April 19, 1771. Upon his return in Mexico, he made some recommendations that were put into place later: Missions were funded as promised; single male natives that traveled to learn a trade could return home after the training.

Miguel Costansó

Miguel Costansó (1741–1814), original name Miquel Constançó, was a Catalan engineer, cartographer and cosmographer. He joined the expedition of exploration of Alta California led by Gaspar de Portolá and Junípero Serra, serving aboard ship as cartographer and on land as engineer.

Misión Nuestra Señora del Santísimo Rosario de Viñadaco

Mission El Rosario was the first Dominican mission in Baja California, established in 1774 by Vicente Mora and Francisco Galisteo near the modern town of El Rosario.

When the Dominicans took over the mission field of Baja California from the Franciscans in 1773, the missions in the central and southern parts of the peninsula were in evident decline, as their Indian populations dwindled under the impact of Old World diseases. However, the northern portion of the peninsula, only recently reconnoitered by Gaspar de Portolá and Junipero Serra, had much more potential.

The site of El Rosario, located near the western coast among the northernmost Cochimí Indians, was chosen as the initial Dominican mission site. The location had been initially identified by the soldier José Velásquez in 1770 and had been favored by the Franciscans as a potential mission site. Its native name was variously given as Viñadaco, Miñaraco, and Viñatacot.

In 1802, the mission was moved from its first site to a location about 6 kilometers closer to the coast with more space, more agricultural land, and better access to external supplies. When the second site ceased to function as a mission in 1832, it was turned over to local residents. Ruined walls and foundations from both the first and the second mission survive.

Mission Santa Cruz

Mission Santa Cruz (La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz, which translates as The Mission of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) was a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order in present-day Santa Cruz, California. The mission was founded in 1791 and named for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, adopting the name given to a nearby creek by the missionary priest Juan Crespi, who accompanied the explorer Gaspar de Portolá when he camped on the banks of the San Lorenzo River on October 17, 1769.As with the other California missions, Mission Santa Cruz served as a site for ecclesiastical conversion of natives, first the Amah Mutsun people, the original inhabitants of the region renamed the “Ohlone” by the Spaniards, and later the Yokuts from the east. The settlement was the site of the first autopsy in Alta California.The current Holy Cross Church was built on the site of the original mission church in 1889, and it remains an active parish of the Diocese of Monterey. A section of stone foundation wall from one of the mission buildings and a few old headstones from the mission cemetery can be found directly behind the present Holy Cross Church. A reduced-scale "replica" chapel was built near the mission site in the 1930s and functions as a chapel of Holy Cross Church. Today's Plaza Park occupies the same location as the original plaza, at the center of the former mission complex. The complex at one time included as many as 32 buildings. The only surviving mission building, a dormitory for native acolytes, has been restored to its original appearance and functions as a museum of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.

Os de Balaguer

Os de Balaguer is a municipality in the comarca of Noguera, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain.

Economy is based on agriculture, with, in particular, the cultivation of vegetables, cereals and olive, and on animal husbandry as well.

Sights in the municipality include the rock paintings of Balma dels Vilars (included in the UNESCO Heritage list and the former Agostianian monastery of Santa Maria de Bellpuig de les Avellanes.

Os de Balaguer was the birthplace of Gaspar de Portolá (1716–1784), governor of Baja and Alta California (1767–1770), explorer and founder of San Diego and Monterey.

The municipality is split into two parts, the bigger north-western part containing the village of Os de Balaguer, the smaller south-eastern part containing the village of Gerb.

Pedro Fages

Pedro Fages (1734–1794; Catalan: Pere Fages i Beleta) was a Spanish soldier, explorer, first Lieutenant Governor of the Californias under Gaspar de Portolá, and second (1770–74) and fifth (1782–91) Governor of Alta California.


Portola may refer to:

Portola (album), a 1998 album by Rose Melberg

Portola, California

Portola, San Francisco, California

Portolà expedition

The Portolà expedition (Spanish: expedición de Portolà) was a Spanish voyage of exploration in 1769–1770 that was the first recorded European land entry and exploration of the interior of the present-day U.S. state of California. It was led by Gaspar de Portolà, governor of Las Californias, the Spanish colonial province that included California, Baja California, and other parts of present-day Mexico and the United States. The expedition led to the founding of Alta California and contributed to the solidification of Spanish territorial claims in the disputed and unexplored regions along the Pacific coast of North America.

Presidio of San Diego

El Presidio Reál de San Diego (Royal Presidio of San Diego) is a historic fort in San Diego, California. It was established on May 14, 1769, by Gaspar de Portolá, leader of the first European land exploration of Alta California - at that time an unexplored northwestern frontier area of New Spain. The presidio was the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the present-day United States. As the first of the presidios and Spanish missions in California, it was the base of operations for the Spanish colonization of California. The associated Mission San Diego de Alcalá later moved a few miles away.

Essentially abandoned by 1835, the site of the original Presidio lies on a hill within present-day Presidio Park, although no historic structures remain. The San Diego Presidio was registered as a California Historical Landmark in 1932, then declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

Santiago Creek

Santiago Creek is a major watercourse in Orange County in the U.S. state of California. About 34 miles (55 km) long, it drains most of the northern Santa Ana Mountains and is a tributary to the Santa Ana River. It is one of the longest watercourses entirely within the county. The creek shares its name with Santiago Peak, at 5,687 ft (1,733 m) the highest point in Orange County, on whose slopes its headwaters rise.

The Santiago Creek watershed covers about 100.6 square miles (261 km2) in northern Orange County. The upper part of the creek is free-flowing, while the lower section is urbanized and includes parts of the cities of Tustin, Orange, and Santa Ana. Below the Villa Park Dam the creek is mostly channelized and flows only during heavy winter storms.

Historically the Santiago Creek provided water for the Tongva people, whose territory extended over much of northern present-day Orange County and into the Los Angeles Basin. Native Americans have inhabited the Santiago Creek and Santa Ana River watershed for up to 12,000 years. The creek was named by the Spanish Gaspar de Portolá expedition of 1769, which crossed the Santa Ana River near where it meets the Santiago Creek. In the 1870s there was a short-lived silver boom along the tributary Silverado Creek. In 1929 the Santiago Dam was built to form Irvine Lake, to supply irrigation water. Pipelines from Irvine Lake still contribute a small amount of water to the municipality of Villa Park.

The Californias

The Californias (Spanish: Las Californias), occasionally known as the Three Californias or Two Californias, are a region of North America spanning the United States and Mexico and consisting of the U.S. state of California and the Mexican states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Historically, the term "The Californias" was used to define the vast northwestern region of Spanish America, as the Province of the Californias (Spanish: Provincia de las Californias), and later as a collective term for Alta California and the Baja California Peninsula.Originally a single, vast entity within the Spanish Empire, as the Californias became defined in their geographical limits, their administration was split various times into Baja California (Lower California) and Alta California (Upper California), especially during the Mexican control of the region, following the Mexican War of Independence. As a part of the Mexican–American War (1846–48), the American Conquest of Alta California saw the vast Alta California territory ceded from Mexico to the United States. The populated coastal region of the territory was Admitted into the Union in 1850 as the State of California, while the vast, sparsely-populated interior region would only later gain statehood as Nevada, Utah, and large parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

Today, "The Californias" is a collective term to refer to the American and Mexican states bearing the name California, which share geography, history, cultures, and strong economic ties.

Timeline of the Portolá expedition

This Timeline of the Portolá expedition tracks the progress during 1769 and 1770 of the first European exploration of the Spanish possession of Alta California, present-day California, United States. Missionary Juan Crespi kept a diary detailing the group's daily progress and detailed descriptions of their location, allowing modern researchers to reconstruct their journey. Portions of other diaries by Gaspar de Portolá, engineer Miguel Costansó, missionary Junípero Serra, army officer Jose de Canizares, and Sergeant José Ortega also survived. When analyzed as a whole, they provide detailed daily information on the route traveled and camping locations, as well as descriptions of the country and its native inhabitants.

Trabuco Canyon, California

Trabuco Canyon is a small unincorporated community located in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains in eastern Orange County, California, and lies partly within the Cleveland National Forest.

Trabuco Canyon is north of the town of Rancho Santa Margarita. Plano Trabuco Road leads from the top of the canyon south to Rancho Santa Margarita.

Under Spain
Under Mexico
Under U.S. military
U.S. state
(since 1850)

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