Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Colter’s Hell

Colter's Hell (2468)

“Its mythic geysers bursting high.

Its cleft of color casts a spell,

Its savage beauty fills the eye,

But underneath lies Colter’s Hell.”

                                                Roger Fromm

According to the stories, John Colter was the first man of European descent to see what is now Yellowstone NP.  He was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804, an expedition that avoided Yellowstone.  When that expedition ended, Colter didn’t go home.  Instead, he returned to the Yellowstone area to explore it on his own (in 1808).  He was astounded by what he saw.

Unfortunately, he was labeled a lunatic when he returned to Virginia, telling his stories of hissing geysers and boiling mud pots.  Virtually no one believed him.  It wouldn’t be until after the Civil War, when expeditions that included artists and early photographers journeyed to this place, that people would finally “believe”.  Pictures, after all, don’t lie.  At least they apparently didn’t in the late 19th century.

Heck, I’ve been there twice now and I’m still not sure it’s real………

4 Responses to “Colter’s Hell”

  1. Earl Moore

    There are certainly place on this earth which defy one’s ability to describe, or to be believed. Yellowstone would have to be one of those places.

    In this age we know of the mighty forces working underground — it must have seemed almost impossible, or indeed the devils work, in Colter’s day.

    Lovely photo…sulphur, I would guess.

    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl. No, those are called bacteria beds. Bacteria grows around a lot of the springs and geysers and its color depends primarily on the water’s temperature. So sometimes you get multi-colored beds in the same area. It’s amazing. And yes, the geysers are all about “plumbing”. The underground water chambers (like the one under Old Faithful) have to have a route to the surface that contains a restriction somewhere. The one under Old Faithful has a 5″ restriction that determines when the pressure is right for an eruption. Native Americans, of course, believed that it was magic. In general they didn’t enter Yellowstone.

      Oh, there is certainly an ample supply of sulphur. I used to hate the smell but I’ve grown rather fond of it.

    • Paul Maxim

      I know I’d love to see it in the winter. But I doubt I could get my wife to brave the cold……


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