Writing about John Colter many years later...

“Danger had for him a kind of fascination... nature had formed him for hardy endurance of fatigue, privations and perils... His veracity was never questioned among us, and his character was that of a true American backwoodsman.”

– General Thomas James, “Three Years Among the Indians and the Mexicans” (1846)


The Lewis and Clark Expedition nears the end of its twenty-eight month long journey having done the inconceivable, exploring and mapping the Louisiana Purchase’s extreme northwestern limits, opening up the American West.


A respected member, John Colter of Virginia, a hunter, petitions to be discharged early from the Corps of Discovery to return to the Yellowstone country to trap beaver, to make his fortune. The entire “command” has signed on for the duration: only a unanimous vote could relieve any member of their obligation. In the words of Captain William Clark,“ as we were disposed to be of service to anyone of our party who had performed their duty as well as Colter had done...”

Early summer of 1807 a solitary John Colter, paddling a dugout canoe down river, meets at the Platte and subsequently joins Manuel Lisa’s Missouri Fur Company coming up the Missouri River with his own fur trapping expedition. Lisa establishes “Manuel’s Fort” near the confluence of the Big Horn and the Yellowstone River and sends Colter out into the wilderness to bring in the friendly Indian Tribes of the Northwest to swap beaver skins for trade goods.


From here John Colter’s legendary odyssey begins, taking him to strange and forbidden lands, the future Yellowstone National Park, “Colter’s Hell” near present day Cody, Wyoming, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, only to meet destiny head-on in the fabled Ahkoto waktai sakum, the “many come together” land, the Three Forks of the headwaters of the Missouri River. It was here, in the disputed hunting grounds of the feared Blackfeet Nation that Colter has four dramatic encounters.. and, indeed, they are “hair-raising.” Each episode is fraught with fear, replete with inhuman depredations and savage butchery by the Piegan Blackfeet and their allies the Gros Ventre du Plaines, the Atsina... dispatching trusted, dear friends in the cruelest of ways, challenging his mettle and wilderness skills... and daunting the very well-spring of his physical and emotional stamina. And in the end questioning his own ambition, his very reason to stay one day longer in a land where he does not belong.

Colter’s Run is an historical fiction. It is accompanied, however, by a generous prologue (The Life and Times of John Colter) and epilogue covering the known life-facts of the man we honor with this book. This story is compelling, maybe the most compelling in all of early American Western history, based on known events, in the places where they happened, and with many of the historical (actual) characters who took part. Other characters are based on the author’s concept of the people, the circumstances, the places and the times.