The French were the first Europeans to explore the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1699, a contingent of forty men led by explorer Pierre Le Moyne, also known as Sieur d'Iberville, reached the mouth. The men saw on a bluff a bloody cypress pole—i.e. the red stick—that marked the boundary of hunting areas for the native tribes in the area. Le Moyne would return to explore the area a few more times in the coming years. Baton Rouge steadily grew during the 18th century before finally being officially incorporated into the American colonies in 1817.