The Green River rises in the Wind River Mountains of southwestern Wyoming and flows through Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, some of the most spectacular canyons on the continent, before joining the Colorado River in what is today Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. The spectacular Green River Basin was the site of most of rendezvous from the 1820s and to 1840. The 1837 rendezvous that Miller attended occurred on Horse Creek, a tributary of the Green at an altitude of more than 7,100 feet in what Miller called Oregon Territory—near present-day Pinedale, Wyoming.
Miller recalled that “Indians encamped en route for the rendezvous were all about us, for this gathering at a fixed time brings them far and near” and that almost “every bend” of the river “produces fine views, with the mountains forming a glorious background.” (Ross, 1968, text accompanying plate 82) In this picture, prepared for William T. Walters, Miller shows several Indian groups camped along the shores of the Green, leisurely visiting and watering their horses as they relax in this wilderness paradise.
Miller sketched a number of landscapes following the rendezvous, when Stewart and his party remained to hunt, and later worked them into more finished compositions, as with this one that he did for the large 1858 commission from William T. Walters. In such landscapes, the artist drew on his training in traditional romantic painting to show “natural man” at home in nature. Romantic artists often animated natural objects such as the blasted tree at the left of the composition. Amidst what appears otherwise to be a verdant setting, that rotting trunk might symbolize the ongoing death and renewal of nature.