According to Miller’s note, this watercolor depicts “the ‘Big Sandy’ near Green River, on the Banks of which some Beaver Trappers are about to encamp in pursuit of their game.” The Big Sandy is a branch of the Green River that Miller’s party would have passed en route to the rendezvous.
The image is accompanied by one of Miller’s most romantic descriptions of the trappers. Miller writes that, “In their disposition are combined simplicity mingled with ferocity. Exposed to constant danger, their wits become sharpened, making them keen observes of nature,–uniting the subtlety of the savage with the intelligence of the white, they are more than a match for the former.” He goes on to say that they live a simple life with few wants beyond the immediate clothing, food, and a rifle, and that they “explore the vast wilderness” without map or compass, with “undaunted courage.”
Miller’s notes and images do not always jibe neatly, but in this case, the sense of trappers as men with few wants (we do not see packs on the horses, nor tents or other equipment beyond a cooking pot and weapons) at home in a beautiful but dangerous setting is succinctly conveyed. The mounted trappers, facing opposite directions and looking out afar, suggest the sense of vigilance required to face the dangers Miller mentions. The sharp, angular, dark forms of the tree branches caught in the foreground rocks and the craggy tree perilously grasping the edge of the embankment with its roots subtly evoke the potential dangers of mountain life.