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Yellowstone Revealed: 'Lost in the Yellowstone'

In 1870, a man was lost in Yellowstone for 37 days
Posted at 8:10 AM, Nov 13, 2022

(Editor's Note: This year Yellowstone National Park celebrates its 150th Birthday. In honor of that historic milestone we're bringing you a new series called "Yellowstone Revealed." These reports will offer a glimpse into the park's colorful history and stories that you've likely never heard before. The first installment - "Lost in the Yellowstone" - tells the story of a man who was part of the Washburn Expedition which explored the Yellowstone area two years before it became the world's first National Park.)

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park in 1872. But two years earlier, the Washburn expedition named the park's most famous feature: Old Faithful Geyser.

Something even more amazing happened on the expedition. One of its members was lost and emerged weeks later weighing only 50 pounds.

While millions of people from around the world enjoy the roar from the falls of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon, it was not enjoyed by a man who was starving to death 152 years ago.

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

Lee Whittlesey is a former Yellowstone National Park historian. He is now retired, but in recent years he described Everts' amazing story of survival, including how he was nearly killed several times.

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

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

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

Everts wrote that during his wanderings he was burned again when he accidentally set the forest on fire.

Whittlesey said the fire “burned him badly in his sleep.”

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

“He was treed by a mountain lion,” Whittlesey said.

Everts' account says 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 fantastical advice.

“He was still about fifteen miles from Mammoth when he was found,” Whittlesey said.

By that time, Everts was crawling on his hands and knees. His rescuers took him to a cabin and fed him. He weighed only 50 pounds but survived to write a magazine article about the longest time anyone has been lost in the Yellowstone wilderness and survived.

Everts went on to marry and father her child when he was 75. He lived to be 85.