Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Myths About the Mountain Man:

The Mountain Men, were a very small and unique cultural subset of the U.S. population in the early 1800's.  They distinguished themselves by setting forth into the then trackless wilderness between St. Louis on the east and Spanish California on the west.  In the process they mapped out the rivers and mountains of the west, established relations, good or bad, with most Indian populations, saw sights unimaginable back east, survived conditions no civilized man or woman could even contemplate living through, and experienced some of the most incredible adventures.  To top it off, mountain men were master of the "lie", that is tall tales with just a thread of truth woven through them.  

In fact, the Mountain Men were no different than previous generations of fur men who came before them starting in the earliest 1600's.  All penetrated deeply into the wilderness as it existed at the time in pursuit of the soft gold, beaver fur, and all left behind family, friends, and the comforts of civilization for a variety of reasons, but mostly for the promise of riches.  What made the mountain men different was that the concept of manifest destiny, that is a continent spanning nation, had caught the attention of our young country.  The energy of the nation was focused on westward expansion, and at the forefront of that expansion and consciousness stood the Mountain Man.  To their contemporaries, the Mountain Man became truly bigger than life.  In succeeding generations, who and what the Mountain Men were has become distorted until today popular knowledge holds as truth multiple misconceptions regarding the Mountain Man.   These "Myths" include:

Mountain Men always wore Beards
Mountain Men always chose a Hawken Rifle
Mountain Men were Solitary Loners
Trade Whiskey
Softening Leather by Chewing
Mountain Men Only Used Green River Knives
The Indians Were Cheated of Their Valuable Furs in Exchange for
Worthless Trinkets

Eating Beaver Tail:  A Mountain Man Delicacy or a Mountain Man Joke.
Taos Lightning: The Mountains Mans Favorite Drink