From the Annals of Conquistadors – In 1540, the Spanish Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, appointed Francisco Vázquez de Coronado to lead an expedition in search of the Seven Cities of Cíbola also known as the Seven Cities of Gold. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca had described Cibola in his 1536 report after finding his way back to New Spain following his arduous journey from Galveston where he was shipwrecked. The disreputable Marcos de Niza had confirmed Cabeza de Vaca’s report based on his own travels in 1539. Coronado and 1,000 men set out from Culiacán in late April. There was no gold at Cíbola (the Zuñi villages in western New Mexico), but he was led on by stories told by the captive El Turco of great rewards to be found in Quivira, a region on the Great Plains far to the east. Coronado wandered around the Great Plains for another 2 years finding nothing but poor Indian villages. When he returned to Mexico he was subjected to an official examination of his conduct as leader of the expedition and as governor of Nueva Galicia. He was cleared of charges in connection with the expedition.
In 1541, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado wrote to Charles I, King of Spain, describing for the first time the Llano Estacado or Staked Plains. The Llano is a high tableland extending across much of the Texas panhandle and eastern New Mexico. In Texas its eastern boundary is marked by the impressive Caprock which runs hundreds of miles across west Texas. Coronado was overwhelmed by the vastness of the Llano Estacado. As he wrote, “I reached plains so vast that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for 300 leagues.” He further describes them as having “no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea. There was not a stone, nor a bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.” He was also the first to write about the incredible herds of cattle (bison) that he encountered and the first to describe the various plains Indians that he encountered. Of course, he never found the Cities of Gold that he was looking for.
From the Annals of the Conquistadors – In 1540, the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, commissioned Francisco Vázquez de Coronado to lead an expedition to search for the Seven Cities of Cíbola. The Spanish were intrigued by the report of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca who had described the cities after finding his way back to New Spain following his long wandering through Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico. Another explorer, Marcos de Niza, later confirmed Cabeza de Vaca’s report. Coronado and 1,000 men set out from Culiacan April of 1540 and he did not return for more than two years. He found Cíbola – but they were the Pueblos of western New Mexico and there was no gold. Undaunted, he was induced by the captive El Turco to search for gold in Quivira located somewhere in present day Kansas. Quivira turned out to be a village of the Plains Indians eking out a subsistence living. in his wanderings, Coronado did explore the Llano Estacado in the Panhandle and Eastern New Mexico and “discovered” Palo Duro Canyon and the Caprock in West Texas.
Photo from the top of the Caprock in Caprock Canyon State Park.