Roanoke Wasn't America's Only Lost Colony

Explore some of the lesser-known sites where early colonies failed to take root with our detailed new map.

This story appears in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.

FRENCH RETREAT
The French focused on the north after their Florida colonies were sacked by the Spanish. Québec was their first permanent settlement on the St. Lawrence River.

SPANISH ASSAULT
Attacking from San Agustín, Spanish Catholic soldiers marched to Fort Caroline and massacred over 300 French Protestant settlers in 1565.

ROANOKE MYSTERY
The Anglo-Spanish War delayed a relief expedition to the English colony. Searchers in 1590 found a clue that colonists may have moved to Croatoan Island.

PURITANS OF PLYMOUTH
Low on supplies after harsh sailing conditions, Puritan separatists fleeing the Church of England abandoned their Virginia route in favor of Massachusetts.

JAMESTOWN STRUGGLES
The Virginia Company’s outpost, a private venture, almost failed before its cash crop—tobacco—piqued England’s interest. In 1624 Virginia became a royal colony.

SPANISH EXPANSIONS
pain colonized Florida’seastern coast in the mid-1500sin an attempt to counterFrench encroachment.

FIRST FAILED COLONY
Vikings from Greenland settled in Newfoundland between 990 and 1050, nearly 500 years before other Europeans. Why their colony ultimately failed is unknown.

Hover over the map to discover more about the lost colonies.

1500–1621

COLONIAL PURSUITS

European nations had similar motives for

seeking a foothold in the New World.

The Spanish set sail with a fervor for

gold and to convert souls to Roman

Catholicism, the French desired trade

and profits, and the English—arriving late—

hungered for prestige and equal standing

as a colonial power. Many early ventures

ended in failure.

Charlesfort

Failed colony

Successful colony

1562-1563

JAMESTOWN

English

French

Spanish

Selected fort or mission

200

0

miles

200

0

kilometers

Modern names are shown for physical features.

GULF OF

MAINE

Tadoussac

1600-1601

PORT-ROYAL

1605

First successful French colony

QUÉBEC

Île Sainte-Croix

Charlesbourg-

Royal

1608

1604

1541-1543

First French

attempt

at colonization

Sable Island

1598-1603

380 mi ENE

Sagadahoc (Popham)

1607-1608

Cape Cod

PLYMOUTH

1620

Long

Island

Ajacán

1570-1571

Most northerly

Spanish mission

JAMESTOWN

1607

Roanoke

DETAILED

LOWER RIGHT

Fort San Juan (Joara)

Inland Spanish outpost

1567-1568

Santa Elena

Charlesfort

1566-1587

1562-1563

San Miguel de Gualdape

First attempted colony

1526

San Mateo

1565-1569

Fort Caroline

SAN AGUSTÍN

(St. Augustine)

1565

1564-1565

First permanent

settlement on the

Atlantic coast

Santa María de Ochuse

1559-1561

GULF OF MEXICO

Possible

site of

fort

Roanoke

I.

Roanoke

First outpost 1585-

1586 Colony 1587-?

Hatteras

Island

Cape Hatteras

Croatoan Island

(Now part of

Hatteras I.)

Cape Lookout

MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK, NGM STAFF; SCOTT

ELDER. ART: DAVID STEVENSON.

 

SOURCES: LARRY E. TISE, EAST CAROLINA

UNIVERSITY; BRADLEY DIXON, UNIVERSITY OF

TEXAS AT AUSTIN; TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH

MUSEUM; LIBRARY OF CONGRESS; DAVID B.

QUINN, EXPLORERS AND COLONIES; CARL

ORTWIN SAUER, SIXTEENTH CENTURY

NORTH AMERICA

Lake

Huron

1500–1621

COLONIAL PURSUITS

Tadoussac

European nations had similar motives for

seeking a foothold in the New World.

The Spanish set sail with a fervor for

gold and to convert souls to Roman

Catholicism, the French desired trade

and profits, and the English—arriving late—

hungered for prestige and equal standing

as a colonial power. Many early ventures

ended in failure.

1600-1601

Charlesbourg-Royal

1541-1543

First French attempt

at colonization

QUÉBEC

1608

Île

d’Anticosti

GULF OF

ST. LAWRENCE

Prince

Edward

Island

Île Sainte-Croix

1604

Sagadahoc (Popham)

1607-1608

PORT-ROYAL

GULF OF MAINE

1605

PLYMOUTH

First successful French colony

1620

Long

Island

Cape

Breton

Island

Cape Cod

(Joara) Fort San Juan

1567-1568

Inland Spanish outpost

Ajacán

JAMESTOWN

1570-1571

1607

Most northerly

Spanish mission

Sable Island

1598-1603

Santa María de Ochuse

Roanoke

Charlesfort

DETAILED

LOWER RIGHT

1559-1561

Hatteras

Island

1562-1563

San Miguel de Gualdape

Cape Fear

Santa Elena

First attempted colony

1526

1566-1587

Fort Caroline

1564-1565

Possible

site of

fort

GULF

OF

MEXICO

San Mateo

1565-1569

Roanoke

I.

Roanoke

SAN AGUSTÍN

(St. Augustine)

1565

First outpost 1585-

1586 Colony 1587-?

Hatteras

Island

First permanent

settlement on the

Atlantic coast

Cape Lookout

Charlesfort

MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK, NGM STAFF; SCOTT ELDER. ART: DAVID STEVENSON.

 

SOURCES: LARRY E. TISE, EAST CAROLINA UNIVERSITY; BRADLEY DIXON, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS

AT AUSTIN; TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM; LIBRARY OF CONGRESS; DAVID B. QUINN,

EXPLORERS AND COLONIES; CARL ORTWIN SAUER, SIXTEENTH CENTURY NORTH AMERICA

Failed colony

Successful colony

1562-1563

JAMESTOWN

English

French

Spanish

Selected fort or mission

200

0

miles

200

0

kilometers

Modern names are shown for physical features.