5 Unbelievable Stories About John Colter, the Original Mountain Man

(Moose, Wyo.) - Today, June 27, is officially John Colter Day at the Colter Bay Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park. Colter explored the vast Yellowstone country during the winter of 1807-1808, and was likely the first European to ever travel the region. There are many unbelievable stories about this Mountain Man and here are our five of our favorites. *1. He preferred the Wild Wild West over "Civilization"* According to , Colter was born in Virginia in approximately 1774 and his family moved to Kentucky around 1780. In 1803, Colter joined the Louis and Clark Expeditions and headed west. When the expedition was complete, instead of heading back to "civilization," he was able to leave and headed to the Yellowstone River with two trappers he met. *2. Colter's Hell* After leaving the Lewis and Clark expedition, Colter began working for a fur trading company. According to , he headed south from Montana into Cody (or Thermopolis or Yellowstone), where he ran into several thermal features, which he called "Colter's Hell." *3. First White Man in Yellowstone* “About 40 percent of historians think Colter never entered [Yellowstone], and 60 percent think he did,” said Yellowstone National Park Historian Lee Whittlesey on . "Some experts believe Colter traveled over Togwotee Pass, south of the park. Others trace his route across the northern part of the Jackson Hole valley, over Teton Pass, up the western shore of Yellowstone Lake, and finally back to Montana," stated the article . Some believe that the Colter's description of the thermal features prove he was in Yellowstone, while other sources state that was the area now known as Thermopolis. *4. The Colter Stone* According to Grand Teton National Park, this stone is a piece of rhyolite lava carved in the shape of a human head and engraved with the name John Colter, and year 1808. Discovered in Tetonia, Idaho in 1933, the stone, if authentic, represents the only solid proof of the route followed by trapper and explorer John Colter. As a member of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition from 1804 to 1806, Colter was given an early discharge from the Corps of Discovery. He set out on his own from a fur traders’ fort in the southern Montana territory and he traveled south to present-day Cody, Wyoming. On his return, he passed through an area that is now part of Yellowstone National Park. A section of his journey may have brought him through Jackson Hole, over Teton Pass, and along the western slope of the Tetons. *5. Last, but definitely not least, the story of Colter's Run* This story is one that has been widely told and embellished throughout the years. Colter had been tasked with traveling throughout the region to tell the Native Americans about his fur company and discuss trades. During these meetings, he often clashed with the Blackfoot tribe. According to the story, Colter was captured by the Blackfoot tribe in 1809. Shortly after his capture the tribe stripped him naked and let him go. "Telling Colter to run, the mountain man quickly realized he was the object of a 'human hunt.' A very swift runner, Colter eluded most of the group but one man was gaining on him. Turning and facing the Indian, Colter killed him with his own spear, took his blanket, and by hiding in the river under a pile of logs, was able to escape. For the next eleven days, he walked 200 miles back to Fort Raymond with only the blanket for warmth and survived on bark and roots to eat. When he stumbled into the stockade he was almost dead," stated the article . Today, Grand Teton National Park celebrates John Colter Day. This marks the ninth year that Grand Teton has offered special presentations to highlight the life of John Colter and the mountain men of the 1800s. Get the full schedule of events here. *Feature Photo: Colter Stone. NPS Photo.* #buckrail #news #whatshappening