America's original survivalist, the Mountain Man

Who was America’s original survivalist?

One of America’s original survivalist once said: “No, I never did get lost, but I was bewildered for three days once.” – Daniel Boone

Pioneering the Wild West, America’s original survivalists, the Mountain Men. Mountain Men were fiercely independent nature lovers who roamed the backcountry from the 1800s to around the 1860s. They were America’s original survivalist who trapped beaver, muskrat, and otter. The animals they trapped making homemade outfits head to toe. Mountain Men plied most of their trade in the Rocky Mountains. This helped in the opening of the uncharted wild west, where settlers would soon be settling.                                   

Back then Mountain Men were a symbol of freedom and life on the new American frontier. They were fearless and embodied the American spirit, living by their own laws. We owe a great deal of gratitude to these men who carved out the wilderness making it easier for settlers to migrate to the new land.

Trappers and mountain men believed they had a calling from life to live life in the wilderness. Many survived attacks from the Comanche and Blackfoot Native Americans who lived in the area and eventually they became friends with them. They learned to work together, shared their knowledge and even intermarried.

The life of a mountain man was not very glamourous. On the daily it was dangerous and they risked their lives crossing rushing rivers, grizzly bear attacks, brutal weather and illnesses. Men also drowned, fell off cliffs, were bitten by rattlesnakes even their diet posed a mortal threat.

Although these men felt they were called to become a survivalist and lived life on their own terms, the lure of money they made from furs did play a part. Most trappers worked together in groups and worked for one of the fur companies. In exchange for gear, they would have to sell pelts to furriers. A good trapper who returned with 300- 400 pelts could make $1,000 to $2,000.

The era of a trapper and mountain man came to an end in the late 1840’s- 1860’s due to over trapping and the decreasing demand for beaver fur. Soon the adventure progressed into settling the west, building rail roads and fighting Native Americans along side the US Army. In the near future mountain men and trappers would turn west and become the pioneers of the American West.

Want to learn more about America’s original survivalist? See live demonstrations and interact with the Mountain Man (Or woman!) at Wild West City’s Mountain Man history demonstration site. 

Related Articles

Tuesday on the Trail
Western Lifestyle
Grubstake Glen

The Journey Westward

“Go West, Young man, Go west!” inspired many dreams when this quote was first coined in an 1851 newspaper. But a young man’s dreams would soon become a nightmare if the young pioneer rushed towards adventure without careful planning.

Read More »
Big Nose Kate famous cowgirl of the Wild West
Western Lifestyle
Calamity Jane

Women of the Wild West

While the Wild West’s tales often center on cowboys, lawmen, and outlaws (primarily men), the reality is far richer. Countless women of the Wild West played crucial roles in shaping the region, defying traditional gender expectations in the process.

Read More »
Who was Bass Reeves?
Western Lifestyle
Cowboy Chris

Who was Bass Reeves?

Who was Bass Reeves? If you cannot answer this question, you are not alone. When it comes to the wild wild west, and all those legendary figures, it is easy to see why a single man can fall through the cracks.

Read More »
Book Now