Grand Teton Observes 2nd Annual Colter Day

The Colter Stone was unearthed
on an Idaho farm in 1933
June 12, 2009
Grand Teton National Park will hold its second annual John Colter Day on Monday, June 22, 2009 at the Colter Bay Visitor Center and Indian Arts Museum. Colter explored the greater Yellowstone area during the winter of 1807-08, and was likely the first white man to do so. To highlight this historical figure, Grand Teton will offer several programs during the second and third week of June. Colter Bay, on the northeast shore of Jackson Lake, is named in his honor.

Dr. Barbara Mueller, Professor of Anthropology at Casper College, will be the keynote speaker presenting “John Colter: Mountain Man Superhero,” at 3 p.m. on June 22 on the back deck of the Colter Bay Visitor Center. Additionally Mueller will provide museum tours of the David T. Vernon Indian Arts collection at the Colter Bay Visitor Center and Indian Arts Museum, Monday June 15 through Friday
June 19. Mueller’s tours will take the place of the regularly scheduled
4 p.m. museum tours.

The Colter Stone will be on display at the Colter Bay Visitor Center from June 22-28. Park Ranger Naturalist Dan Greenblatt will present “The Story of the Colter Stone,” at 11 a.m. in the Colter Bay auditorium, detailing the legend and history of this fascinating artifact. The stone, which is on loan from the Teton Valley Historical Museum in Driggs, Idaho, is a piece of rhyolite lava rock carved in the shape of a human head. It is engraved on one side with the name “John Colter,” and on the other side is the 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. The Colter Stone remains a fascinating piece of the puzzle yet to fit into the mystery of John Colter’s pioneering sojourn through this region. For information on the Colter Stone, visit

Colter’s route through the Jackson Hole valley is uncertain, and no clear maps or records exist. 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 trapping fort in present-day southern Montana and headed south to present-day Cody, Wyoming. On his return, he passed through what is now Yellowstone National Park. The middle section of his journey is a matter of speculation. One theory indicates he traveled via Togowtee Pass. The other commonly held view traces Colter’s route through Jackson Hole, over Teton Pass, and north along the west side of the Teton Range. No evidence exists to substantiate either route, and the only available sources of information are vague accounts and maps derived from interviews with Colter after his return.

For information about John Colter Day events, please call the Colter Bay Visitor Center at 307.739.3594.