John Colter (kōl´tər), c.1775–1813, American trapper and guide, b. Virginia. In 1803 he enlisted in the Lewis and Clark expedition and in 1806, on the return trip, was granted a discharge to join a party of trappers. The following year, on his way to St. Louis, he met the expedition of Manuel Lisa and was engaged to guide the party to the mouth of the Big Horn, where a post was built. Lisa sent Colter on a mission to the Crow. His exact route is not certain, but he is believed to have crossed, alone and on foot, the Wind River Mts. and the Teton range, and he may have been the first white man to see the region that he traversed (now included in Yellowstone National Park). He was severely wounded in a battle between the Crow and Blackfoot, but he escaped and made his way back to the post. In 1809 he guided an expedition of the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company to the Three Forks of the Missouri, returning to St. Louis in 1810. He furnished very valuable data to Clark, who was compiling maps for the report of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
See biographies by S. Vinton (1926) and B. Harris (1952).