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Colter's Hell

Posted by
B. Thomas (Arlington, Texas, United States) on 21 September 2011 in Landscape & Rural.

John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was the first to see the geysers near Cody, Wyoming in 1807-1808. Later Old Faithful and the boiling mud holes of what is now known as Yellowstone Park was nicknamed Colter's Hell because no one back in St. Louis would believe him when he described the boiling water, mud and steam.

*The notion that Colter's Hell referred to one of the geyser basins of Yellowstone first appeared in Hiram M. Chittenden's 1895 book Yellowstone National Park. However, Chittenden went on to describe a "tar spring" on the Stinkingwater as well under the same name. Chittenden's speculation contradicts the earliest published description of the site in Washington Irving's account of Captain Benjamin L.E. Bonneville's journals of Bonneville's scouts' visit to the location in 1833, the same year that another of Bonneville's survey parties discovered the geyser basins of Yellowstone along the Firehole River.

The sights, sounds, and smells of a morning in the Norris Geyser Basin could easily make one wonder if they were indeed about to enter a path into hell. I actually found my walk there to be rather heavenly.

NIKON D5000 1/200 second F/18.0 ISO 400 30 mm (35mm equiv.)

J.R. from Ginowan, Japan

BEAUTIFUL I would love to be there.

21 Sep 2011 12:01pm

@J.R.: Thanks. I would love to be there - again!

Williams from East LaHave, Nova Scotia, Canada

A very beautiful hell indeed. I like the path leading down into it. Very interesting history as well.

21 Sep 2011 12:02pm

Eric Cousineau from Sherwood Park, Canada

A wonderfully dramatic image Barbara! Great details to go with the image! ;-)

21 Sep 2011 1:10pm

Christel from Köln, Germany

Good afternoon Mrs. Thomas,
An interesting spectacle of nature. In the photo captured fantastic. Thank you for this information.
I wish you all the best and health. Dear greetings from Christel and Ranger......

21 Sep 2011 1:39pm

@Christel: Thanks, Christel.

Don from Spokane, United States

A wonderful capture of this amazing steam-filled place. A great shot!

21 Sep 2011 3:09pm

Loner from Wörgl, Austria

So wonderful - I would like to be there !

21 Sep 2011 3:27pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

This is truly an amazing and magnificent scene, Barbara...excellent job here! There is also the old saying (and song) about the road to hell being paved with good intentions...but I think the misuse of the word "hell" began with the early story writers who loved to embellish things just a wee bit...sounds alot like we have them still around if you watch any newscast or read any tabloid....You vision and image here is what it's al about - beauty, amazement, nature and all of it's activities..Fantastic, Barbara...As a Post Script, I might add that, after walking through the sulphur and steam-laden geysers of Yellowstone, to this day, my nose is still over sensitive to cooking odors and grease.....can't seem to get it out of my olfactory system ... But I'm ready to go back ;-)

21 Sep 2011 3:52pm

Ralf Kesper from Attendorn, Germany

Really awesome!

21 Sep 2011 4:01pm

Nicou from Sion, Switzerland

Quelle compo et iamge superbe effet de ces fumées quelle compo avec l'évaporation grandisoe

21 Sep 2011 4:47pm

Twojays from South Central Montana, United States

OOOh what a great frame Barbara. Cloud and steam merge. The thermals are so elementally primitive, so unchanged sort of, we feel. Such pungent moisture and power. Beautiful too. That looks like Norris.

21 Sep 2011 5:19pm

@Twojays: Thanks, yes it is Norris.

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

Marvellous image, to some it must seem apocalyptic.

21 Sep 2011 5:43pm


That's a stuning frame and the pathway leading the eyes in works so well in this composition.

21 Sep 2011 5:54pm


Steven from Chicagoland, United States

Oh wow! Beautiful aerial view that you've captured here! The steam from the geysers really help make this a dramatic sight.

21 Sep 2011 6:05pm

franz from Baden, Austria

how anyone can compare this magnificent natural spectacle to hell is beyond me! hell is much rather to be found in today's megacities or giant slums, i'd say ...
(and even the smell of sulphur has no link to hell for me - baden, my hometown, has numerous sulphur springs that have been used for curing rheumatism since roman times! when there is low pressure, the whole town reeks of it ... not hell, surely!)

21 Sep 2011 6:18pm

@franz: I agree. I guess back when the 1800's the descriptions sounded pretty far fetched.

Sien from Valkenswaard, Netherlands

Woww..A great shot!
Beautiful image, love the dramatic of the steam..
Well done

21 Sep 2011 6:24pm

Jules from Drayton, United Kingdom

well captured - I love these thermal geological landscapes

21 Sep 2011 8:10pm

Judy aka L@dybug from Brooksville, FL, United States

The sulphur odor is really unpleasant only if one associates it with rotting eggs. When you adjust your thinking, and realize what is going on beneath your feet you are reminded at how minuscule you are. The beauty in this park has to be seen, felt and smelled to comprehend it. Your image is the next best thing!

21 Sep 2011 8:34pm

@Judy aka L@dybug: Thanks, Judy. I thought all the smells were just part of the fun of the place. ;-) What is going on beneath the surface is really amazing.

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

fine composition

21 Sep 2011 9:41pm

Isidro from Barcelona, Spain

Marvellous image, well captured !

21 Sep 2011 10:49pm

Sandy Weston from Maine, United States

Thanks for the history, Barbara. This shot is amazing! Was the temperature different walking along the path because of the warm steam?

22 Sep 2011 1:36am

@Sandy Weston: If the steam blew on us, it was warm or even hot, but it was a beautiful cool morning so the steam did not warm the whole basin.

Vaido from Võrumaa, Estonia

Impressive sight! The steam and the clouds look connected here :)

22 Sep 2011 10:23am

Tinx from Kuressaare, Estonia

Wow! Great image!

23 Sep 2011 9:06am

Tim from Ft. Worth, United States

nicely captured :)

25 Sep 2011 1:58am

Cruz from exurbia, United States

Barbara..the sky with the clouds and the smoke are wonderful...Definitely not “hell” but back in the 1890s it was a good way to describe something that no one really believed existed. Great capture

26 Sep 2011 11:08pm

Trina from Pennsylvania, United States

Very dramatic! Great capture!

28 Sep 2011 12:26pm

StarCosmosBleu from Bedford.Qc, Canada

Awesome territory...great shot

3 Oct 2011 5:45am

1/200 second
ISO 400
30 mm (35mm equiv.)