The existence of the Colorado River was first noted in the records of written history in September, 1539, when Francisco de Ulloa sailed to the head of the Gulf of California and rowed a short distance upstream. It was next seen by Hernando de Alarcon who in 1540 led the maritime contingent of Coronado's expedition. The plan was to meet the land based force and resupply them. Alarcon ascended the river about 85 miles to the limit of navigation near present-day Yuma, Arizona. He waited for Coronado, but eventually despaired, cached some supplies and correspondence, left a note on a tree, and departed. Coronado's land forces never reached that location, but Melchior Diaz, on his third expedition, went to see if he could establish contact with Alarcon. By the time he reached the Colorado, however, Alarcon had already left. The Native Americans told him what they knew of Alarcon's presence and that he had left a cache of supplies. Diaz found the note and the supplies. Diaz named the river Rio del Tizon ("River of Embers" or "Firebrand River") based on a practice used by the natives for warming themselves. Meanwhile, Coronado (who at the time was near Zuni, New Mexico) had learned from one of his scouting parties that the natives spoke of a large river to the west. He sent Garcia Lopez de Cardenas to lead a contingent of men to find this river. They did find it at what is now known as the Grand Canyon, becoming the first people of European background to see it. Their failed attempts at reaching the river led them to conclude that it would not be possible to be supplied via the Gulf of California and the river.
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