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John Colter: His Years in the Rockies Paperback – March 1, 1993

4.0 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Because John Colter was the first white man to see the wonders which thousands nowadays visit each year in the Yellowstone, his story has historical importance of the first order."—San Francisco Chronicle
(San Francisco Chronicle)

"The first full-blown account by one who is thoroughly familiar with the intricate geography of the country [that Colter] explored and who is capable of distinguishing between facts and guesswork. . . . [A] solid contribution which is not likely to be superseded in our time."—Journal of American History
(Journal of American History)

About the Author

David Lavender is the author of Bent's Fort, One Man's West, Westward Vision: The Story of the Oregon Trail, and California: Land of New Beginnings, also available as Bison Books.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803272642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803272644
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Yellowstone...Colter's Hell...geysers...Indians.... I found this book a total pleasure to read. Couldn't put it down! Although it is true that Colter's life was somewhat obscure by a lack of more historical documentation, Harris does an exemplary piece of work with what there is to work with. Citing such references as William Clark, Thomas James, Brackenridge, Bradbury and others, Harris does make a justifiable attempt to back up his story. Required reading for those into this time period of the early American West when mountain men roamed the wide open spaces, high mountain valleys and peaks. It must have been a tough, but very rewarding way of life...if you survived the perils and hardships of that day.
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By Bomojaz on October 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
John Colter was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, acting primarily as a hunter (Clark praised his prowess in bringing in game). Before the expedition returned home to St. Louis, he was relieved of his duties whereby he joined two trappers heading to the Rockies. After a year trapping the headwaters of the Missouri, Colter left his partners and rafted down the river; but again before reaching civilization he encountered Manuel Lisa and returned once again to the Rockies to trap and trade with the Indians. It was while the party wintered on the Big Horn River that Colter undertook an "epic winter journey" over the Tetons and into Yellowstone Park (the first white man recorded by history to do so) and finally over to the hot springs and hot tar pits (since known as "Colter's Hell") along the Shoshone River (now mainly under Buffalo Bill Reservoir near Cody). Harris spends a good deal of space plotting and attempting to detail Colter's route during that winter trek, for getting over the Rockies in winter (in 1807-08 no less) is no mean feat. Colter must have had a high tolerance for discomfort and hard living because after this ordeal he had numerous run-ins with the Blackfeet, once being wounded, another time being captured, stripped, and forced to run for his life, which he did successfully, making his way 250 miles to Ft. Lisa on the Big Horn in 11 days. Even after this he returned to the Three Forks (Blackfeet) area TWICE (each time getting attacked by the Indians) before finally calling it quits and settling just west of St. Louis where he died in 1813.

Harris's book is probably the definitive book on Colter, despite its 1952 publication date (in 1977 he added a chapter with updated information which doesn't add to or change much of the original work). It is historically detailed and soundly written and is a superb account of Colter's life and adventures. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
John Colter was a member of the Louis and Clark expedition who ventured off with fur trappers. One winter he allegedly traipsed around Montana and Wyoming and discovered Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Little is known of Colter. He left no journals so most of what is known of him is second hand at best and thus whether he actually found what he's credited with discovering is questionable. Harris clearly believes he did discover Yellowstone although some of his evidence is very questionable.

This book is an entertaining and fast read. Read it with a grain of salt as little is know about the Colter. Make sure to read the introduction as it corrects some important errors in Harris's book. I disagree with the reviewer who says this book is a waste of time. It isn't. This is an ambitious work about an important explorer about whom next to nothing is known. There are no historic documents to source other than the ones Harris used. By default half of what he says has to be speculation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am over half way through reading this, and will be surprised if I finish. I thought this book was going to be a biographical story about John Colter, but I am finding out it is really a (insert any mountain man's name here) type of book. Very little information about John Colter himself, just stories of people places and events during the same time frame as Colte's life.

Really, I wish I would've paid much more attention to other people's comments before I purchased this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After covering half of the book, I gave up. There is actually very little known of Colter and the author tries to make up of the lack of information by telling us all we didn't need to know about the fur trade, the L & C expedition, the conditions of the field, etc. The book is largely a waste of time.
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Format: Paperback
I used this book as a source for Tribe and Trappers when I was writing my chapter on John Colter. There's a lot known about Colter, mainly because of his famous 'run.' But few no the details of his later life, and this book does a good job of filling in a lot of the gaps.

For instance, did you know that John Colter was one of the original Ashley Hundred, the men that joined with him in the fur trade after he put an advertisment into the Missouri newspapers in 1822? Jim Bridger, Mike Fink, and Hugh Glass were some other notables of that historic group, and this book talks about them.
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Format: Paperback
Nevermind TV's Jack Bauer. If you want real pulse-pounding adventure then this book offers up one of the best extreme Mountain Man stories you're likely to come across! In 1803 John Colter joined the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Thomas Jefferson's 'Corps of Discovery' that opened up the West...well, make that pried open because as we all know from school it wasn't an easy journey for the intrepid troop.
Where our educations often leave off regarding those who made the dangerous journey is where this book picks up with the tale of one of the more amazing figures from it, John Colter.
On Lewis & Clarks' return trip Colter takes an Honorable Discharge at a Mandan Indian Village and stays behind in the west. Colter gets to the core of his own discoveries by being the first white man to find what we know today as Yellowstone Park. If he wasn't the first then he was at least one who was documented, Imagine anyone's surprise at finding bubbling mud, steaming geysers, and land that creaked and groaned under your feet with no postcards to show that you been there.
In the book you'll find out how he barely escaped from the Blackfeet Indians three times in one year. One of the most harrowing escapes you'll probably recognize from the movie The Mountain Men (great movie, by the way!) starring Charlton Heston and Brian Keith. The escape also formed the foundation for Cornel Wilde's movie, The Naked Prey (another great movie).
Colter's exploits in the Montana-Wyoming area from 1806 on were extraordinary and show how Lewis & Clark were lucky to have him on their expedition.
Colter died of jaundice in his early 40s (Eh, maybe. Nobody really knows his exact birthdate so we're left to guess his final age).
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