|Colter's Hell is a mostly
inactive geyser district located just west of Cody, Wyoming, at the
of the Stinkingwater River Canyon (see photo at right).
geyser activity has been minimal
in recent times, there are accounts of geothermal activity
to that inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park in the not
Colter, an intrepid member of the
Lewis and Clark Expedition, gave the first accounts of the area to
Americans following his solo journey of 1807-1808. But Colter's
of gloomy terrors, hidden fires, smoking pits, noxious streams and the
all-pervading smell of brimstone were too wild for his listeners to
They derisively dubbed the imaginary place "Colter's Hell."
wasn't until Thomas Moran painted the
natural features of Yellowstone National Park and William Jackson
back photographs in 1871 that the American public realized that
accounts were no fantasy.
the true Colter's Hell was outside
of Cody, it was also erroneously associated with an active geothermal
in the northwestern section of Yellowstone National Park," Michael
points out in Myths
and Mysteries of the Old West.
M. Chittenden perpetuated the
false mythology in his book Yellowstone
National Park. He called the Geyser Basin Colter's Hell. This
honest error on his part, but the name caught on. For more than a
years now, folks have equated Geyser Basin with with John Colter. While
he traveled a greatr deal, Colter never actually made it to that
section of Yellostone National Park. Chittenden corrected the error,
in his next book, a book worth reading, called American
Fur Traders of the Far West. Colter'splace in folklore had
been sealed however, and the legen continues to this day."
Teton Natural History Association
Hell and Jackson's Hole
The head-shaped Colter Stone, which may have been
carved by the famous mountain man, was discovered near Tetonia, Idaho,
in 1931. One side reads, "John Colter," the other, "1808." The stone
was found by a farmer plowing his field; he traded it for a pair of
boots. Grand Teton National Park