Harrowing survival of Truman Everts in the Yellowstone Park

Doug Williams
© public domain
© public domain

Conquering the uncharted territory saw its prime in the 18th and 19th century when individuals and expeditions strived to set foot where no one had ever gone before. In American expeditionary history, Truman Everts has earned a unique place as an old-school smart and resilient person.

With an ambition to trek through the legendary Yellowstone, Truman Everts a 54-year-old tax assessor for the Montana authorities, decided to join a group of nineteen experienced men in a bid to map and understand the Yellowstone region; the men were accompanied by a hoard of forty horses.

The famous Washburn-Langford-Duane Expedition was commissioned in 1870 with the assignment to trek the wilds of Yellowstone and compile the chronicles of region’s many wonders, separating facts from fictions and legends.

Yellowstone Lake - NPS/Peaco
Yellowstone Lake

For the most parts the team essentially circumnavigated the Yellowstone Lake; in the early September of 1870 Everts nearly escaped his demise while on the south end of the Yellowstone Lake. The first set back the Everts had to face was the moment when he unwittingly got separated from his expedition while whacking through thick woods between Yellowstone Lake and Heart Lake. Despite Everts apparent disappearance, his absence did not particularly raise alarms amongst his fellow men who were quite busy trying to make their way through pine forest. The thick forest posed a real challenge to the men especially due to the small size of the group who got tired and wary very quickly in the forest.

In the beginning, Everts thought he could eventually catch up with the party; he felt that, despite being left behind he was not lost. However, when his horse decided to make a run with all Evert’s provisions still strapped to the saddle, everts felt a sense of uneasiness building up in his guts, which worsened after he had to spend the cold night alone in the wilderness. Everts wrote about his experiences and feelings during the first night alone in the forest; he wrote that despite being alone and deprived of even the very basic provisions he was adamant that he could catch up with his fellow men very soon in the following morning.

© public domain

In some accounts, Everts talks about losing the horse the following morning when he decided to execute his plans of travelling in the direction of his expedition and meeting up with his men. But soon after he started his journey his horse got spooked and ran away with all provisions including his food, guns, and other safety equipment. Everts was left with only the clothes he was wearing with some blankets on his shoulders, it was at this point that Everts realized the true predicament he was in and the danger he was facing.

Lack of provisions, coupled with the tough terrain made things difficult by the hour, and his short-sightedness made the whole affair even more dreadful for him. September in Yellowstone could be an amazing time of the year but for Everts, it turned out to be near fatal, and he was losing confidence, and the hope of getting out of this unscathed seemed vanishing into the thick forest. Everts had to make a choice, either to return back to the Yellowstone Lake in the hope of his men returning for him or carry on south heading towards the Heart Lake; he chose the latter and took refuge under a tree. The warmth of the thermal springs kept him warm while he could feast on the little birds who also took refuge under the same tree trying to escape a mean storm, Outside reported.

© public domain

Soon after Evert switched into his survival mode he started thinking in a different much ingenious way; he started a fire using his opera glass and fashioned a small knife out of his buckle and some fish hooks. He later caused a fire in the forest nearly burning his hair and narrowly escaped death after waking up and making a run out of the fire.

The expedition decided to look for him and at one stage got very close to the Heart Lake where Everts was hiding, but they were unable to locate him and left for another direction. For the next 37 days, Everts tried to survive in the woods from the wild animals and vicious weather, changing his location and catching birds and other little animals here and there for food. In mid-October Everts was spotted by a group of men who initially thought he was a wounded bear cub crawling around along the banks of Heart Lake.


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival