Louis-Armand de Lom d’Arce, the third Baron Lahontan, was a member of the aristocracy. Born in 1666, he was forced into a career in the military by the family’s hardship after his father’s death. He served across the Atlantic, in New France.
Lahontan was dispatched as part of a force who were to defeat the Iroquois tribes near the Great Lakes. In addition to, or perhaps instead of, his military duties he explored much of the upper Mississippi River Valley. While serving at Boucherville, Lahontan learned Algonquin. Later, he commanded Fort St. Joseph, on the site of what is now Detroit.
While Lahontan certainly saw a great deal of the Great Lakes region, in 1688 he set out on his most fantastic journey. So fantastic, in fact, that it is unclear whether or not it really happened. These travels included what he called the Rivière Longue, which some scholars believe was actually the Missouri River. He also reported a giant salt lake, around which the Tuhuglauk nation lived. However, Lahontan kept this strategically important detail secret while he served as Lieutenant-Governor in Placentia, Newfoundland and as he fled that position when faced with possible imprisonment.
In exile, Lahontan settled in the Netherlands in the mid-1690s, where he began to work on accounts of his travels. The first of these was Nouveaux Voyages dans l'Amerique Septentrionale (1703), which became a bestseller. It was printed in thirteen editions in fourteen years. This book included a description and map of the “Long River,” which was accepted and incorporated into the popular cartographic conception of the region by most of the leading mapmakers of the time, including Guillaume de L'Isle, Herman Moll, Henry Popple, and John Senex. The Tuhuglauk’s salt lake, in turn, would be combined with the geographic hypothesis of a Sea of the West.
Lahontan followed his 1703 memoir with two more, Memoires de l’Amerique Septentrionale, and Supplement aux Voyages ou Dialogues avec le sauvage Adario. Nouveaux Voyages dans l’Amerique Septentrionale. By the time he died, sometime before 1716, he was one of the most popular travel writers in Europe, despite the fact that many of his details were exaggerated or fictitious.