Click on this image to order the book

Click on this image to order the book
The book version of James Gammell's life story is now available. Click on this image.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

James Gammell's Yellowstone Expedition Revisited

August 3, 2010

Hi, Liz,

We are part of the Montana bunch of James's offspring.  We live in southwest Montana in Gallatin Gateway, near Bozeman, and we operate a ranch on the Yellowstone River north of Yellowstone Park.

My daughter Anna and I just spent eight days on horseback exploring part of the route that James and Jim Bridger took in 1846 through the area that is now the remote southeast corner of the Park.  James described the trip to Wheeler as starting in the Jackson Hole area and traveling north into what we now call the Thorofare River-Yellowstone River confluence.  We rode the entire Thorofare-Upper Yellowstone Valley and went over the divide into the Snake River headwaters that James came into with Bridger.  We came out of the backcountry at the South entrance to Yellowstone National Park, loaded our stock and drove home to the ranch on the road along the west of the lake.  James did the whole trip on horseback, of course, passing by what is now our ranch, north of Mammoth, and on to "Benson's Landing" which is now Livingston, Montana, on his way to the Big Horn.

Needless to say, we talked a lot about how we were riding the same drainages that James had traveled.   Thanks to the National Park Service, the country looks very much as it did in 1846, except the trails are much better.

I have been an outfitter and guide in the Park, and I think James probably followed the Snake from Jackson Hole to what is now the vicinity of the South entrance of the Park, then followed the river up to its origin at Mariposa Lake, high on the western side of the Continental Divide, where you can step across the river.  From there it sounds like they crossed the divide, dropped into the upper Thorofare River Country, and probably followed the Yellowstone to the Lake and went back west, over the divide again and up the West side with an excursion to the geyser basins at the head of the Firehole River which runs into the Madison.

Moving through the mountains in 1846 had to be a tough way to travel, as there was no government to cut out the trails.  He mentions a trail along Snake Lake, which must have been a combination Indian, trapper and wild game trail.  It is still there today.  It must have been a hell of a trip through paradise.

I wanted to contact you and thank you for the Chronicles.  James was my great, great grandfather.  His daughter Jeanette (Duncan) was the mother of my Grandmother Hazel, who married Charlie Brown.  Their daughter Jane was my mother.

Dick Kendall
Gallatin Gateway, Montana

See Anna's website for all seventy-five Thorofare Photos:


  1. A message from Britta Duncan, October 2, 2010:

    I was reading The James Gammell Chronicles, and I was inspired by the posting from August 10, 2010 by Dick Kendall. What if we planned a reunion based on retracing the footsteps of Jim Bridger and James Gammell much like Dick talks about in his blog? It would take a lot of work to coordinate, of course, but what fun! I know that Sandra is very familiar with Montana; obviously Dick is from there; the Parks branch is also there; how many others would be interested in retracing this journey? If not actually retracing the footsteps via horseback, would about planning a 2 part reunion? Those that want to ride can meet up with those that fly into Sheridan, Montana? I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this wild idea. Talk to you soon.

    Britta T. Duncan

  2. bparkermt@aol.comMay 30, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    I think some type of reunion would be a great idea. But it would be a potential logistical nightmare. Nevertheless, I would be very interested in not only participating but helping to plan/contact etc. I live in Kansas City but have a ranch south of Emigrant (just a few miles north of Dick Kendall's place). Would love to hear your thoughts.
    Bob Parker.