Fifty Pound Yellowstone Explorer

Mammoth – How can a fifty pound man help create the world’s first national park? The media, of course. In 1870, a man named Truman Everts got lost in what is now Yellowstone Park. When he was found, he weighed only fifty pounds. But the story of his adventure was published in a popular magazine, just before Congress decided to create Yellowstone National Park. The park’s historian has discovered the original story in Everts’ own handwriting.

While millions of people from around the world enjoy the roar of the lower falls of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon, 146 years ago, it was not enjoyed by a man who was starving to death…

Truman Everts had become separated from the Washburn expedition in September 1870. He was lost in Yellowstone for 37 days, without his horse and equipment. He was severely injured several times.

Park Historian Lee Whittlesey explained, “He fell into the hot springs at Heart Lake, when he was lying near them trying to stay warm.”

Whittlesey later edited Everts’ magazine story into a book, and recently published a new account, after Everts’ granddaughter gave him the man’s handwritten notes.”

He explained, “What we were able to add to his story is essentially one big fact, which was that his horse fell into a big mudhole, and that is what got him separated from the rest of the party.”

During his wanderings, Everts was burned again, when he accidentally set the forest on fire…

Whittlesey said his son remembered seeing the scars, “Burned him badly in his sleep.”

But, it snowed, and was so cold, Everts was in danger of freezing to death. And the wild animals that delight tourists today threatened the man alone in the Yellowstone wilderness then.

“He was treed by a mountain lion.”

Finally, in a delusional state, he began to see ghosts who told him to retrace the Washburn party route around Yellowstone Lake, past the river to Canyon falls, then north to Tower falls. Everts took the ghost’s advice.

Whittlesey pointed out on a map, “He was still about fifteen miles from Mammoth when he was found.”

He was crawling on his hands and knees. He was looking for insects to eat. And, the men almost shot him, because they thought he was a bear.

They took him to a cabin and fed him. He weighed only fifty pounds, but survived to write about the longest time anyone had been lost in the Yellowstone wilderness and lived. Everts’ account was published in 1871. Whittlesey said it was one of many newsworthy events that happened before Congress created Yellowstone Park in 1872.

Everts lived to be 85 years old. He fathered a son with his 14 year old wife when he was 75.