Hayden's U. S. Geological Survey: Expedition to Colorado (1873)

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In 1871 and 1872, Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden led expeditions to the Yellowstone and Teton Mountain area in Wyoming, bringing back geological data, maps, and collections, as well as the photographs that helped popularize the natural beauty of Yellowstone. However, in 1873, the heavy expenses of shipping supplies to an area with no railroad, in addition to the threat of hostile American Indians, led Hayden to shift his focus to Colorado instead. He also discussed the change in location by saying, "The prospect of [the area's] rapid development within the next five years, by some of the most important railroads in the West, renders it very desirable that its resources be made known to the world at as early a date as possible." Hayden divided the Colorado territory into northern, middle, and southern regions, and assigned an expedition party to survey each area. In addition, there were three other parties whose duties covered the entirety of the Colorado territory. One party triangulated all of Colorado, and another transported supplies to the expedition members. The third party, led by photographer William H. Jackson, included an artist and several naturalists. This group was given the task of photographing, sketching, and gathering observations for the benefit of both scientists and the public. The expedition focused on geology and topography, but the naturalists also made extensive collections of fossils, animals, and plants. John M. Coulter, who had accompanied Hayden’s expedition to Yellowstone in 1872, continued in his role as an expedition botanist in 1873. Other participants included geologist Frank H. Bradley, doctor and geologist Albert Charles Peale, and assistant geologist William Rush Taggart.


  • Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden and the Founding of the Yellowstone National Park. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1973.
  • USDA PLANTS database. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. National Plant Data Center. http://plants.usda.gov/ (for information on plant species Dicentra uniflora, Calochortus nuttallii, Pinus ponderosa, and Botrychium lunarioides; accessed July 6, 2010).
  • Hayden, F. V. Sixth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey of the Territories, Embracing Portions of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah; Being a Report of Progress of the Explorations for the Year 1872. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1873.
  • Rodgers, Andrew Denny. John Merle Coulter: Missionary in Science. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944.
  • Hayden, F. V. Preliminary Report of the United States Geological Survey of Montana and Portions of Adjacent Territories; Being a Fifth Annual Report of Progress. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872.

Date Range

1873 - 1873


  • Geology
  • Zoology
  • Plants
  • Paleontology
  • Botany


  • United States
  • Colorado


Expedition name