Almost unnoticed, John Colter/Coulter/Coalter pulled his dugout canoe into port at St. Louis in May 1810. He was the last member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to make it back to the starting point.
The others had been met with much fanfare upon reaching St. Louis on Sept. 23, 1806, almost four years earlier. William Clark reported in his journal, “We were met by all the village and received a hearty welcome.”
Colter’s unheralded arrival marked the true ending of the expedition.
Colter didn’t come back to Missouri with the rest of the party because he had made a decision to leave the expedition when it was ready to return to civilization. He had met up with two fur trappers, Joseph Dickson and Forrest Hancock, and wanted to join them to explore the Yellowstone River.
The goal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which had been commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, was to explore and map the newly-acquired territory, find the best route to the West, and establish an American presence in the region. That goal had been accomplished and Lewis and Clark released Colter to pursue his interests.