Moments In History: Colter’s Hell

Wandering Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Ever heard of a man named John Colter? He was a “skilled hunter and scout” who joined the Corps of Discovery and explored with Lewis and Clark and their members all the way to the Pacific Coast. As he headed back to St. Louis with the rest of the explorers, he joined up with some other trappers and set back out north and west. Sometime in 1807, Colter headed out by himself on his own 500-mile journey, where he became the first European-American to set eyes on the Tetons and the Yellowstone region.

Ok, in my best Rod Serling voice: “Imagine, if you will, a land where the air is filled with the smell of rotten eggs, ‘the ground is soft, but warm, beneath your aching feet, and all around you are jets of steaming water and pools of colorful splendor.'” How many people do you think believed Colter when he told them tales of what he saw and experienced? Not too many. They joked about “Colter’s Hell.”

You can read a short synopsis about John Colter and his expedition into Yellowstone country in an edition of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory’s Caldera Chronicles by clicking on the image above.

As for this image, I was wandering through my Yellowstone photo archives and came across an image that made me think of Colter’s Hell. There are two people, making great scale and reference, walking the boardwalk amid the chilly autumn morning steam issuing from vents, geysers, and hot springs in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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