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Canadian prospector Louis Boucher came to Grand Canyon in the 1890s, making his home near a natural spring named Dripping Springs.

Here — deep within the Canyon — he built a small tent camp and corral and lived a solitary life, eventually earning himself the nickname “The Hermit.” Here’s the story how Boucher got that famous moniker.

Boucher was born (circa 1840) in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and traveled widely across Canada as a prospector during the the 1860s and 1870s . While working gold rushes like Fraser and Cariboo, Boucher became adept at using mules for transport and hauling gear. Then in the late 1880s — with his beloved pure white mule named “Calamity Jane” — Boucher turned his attention to the Grand Canyon area in hopes of finding silver.

In 1891, Boucher claimed a parcel of land in Dripping Springs Basin, attracted by the consistent source of fresh water — a rarity in Grand Canyon’s side drainages. He built a small camp and corral to house his few mules and sheep. Here Boucher lived alone, separated from the nearest settlement (Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim) by nearly 10 miles of rugged terrain.

During his time below the rim, Boucher developed trails to access his camp, many of which are still walkable to this day. The trails he constructed include the Boucher Trail, Dripping Springs Trail, and Silver Bell Trail — the latter named named for the silver bell that Calamity Jane wore on her neck.

louis boucher and calamity jane

Louis Boucher riding his beloved mule, Calamity Jane (circa 1910). Photo courtesy of: E.W. Murphy, Grand Canyon Museum Collection

To supplement his not-so-lucrative mining claims, he began guiding tourists on mule rides into the Canyon and let the visitors stay overnight in a few small tents at Dripping Springs. Boucher eventually expanded his camp by planting an orchard and building an irrigation system as well. He also built a small camp near the end of the Boucher Trail — the ruins of which can still be found today.

After Boucher sold his trail interests to the Santa Fe Railroad in 1909, it seems the new owners may have labeled him “The Hermit” as a promotional tactic. The Railroad built the Hermit Trail in 1911, with Boucher’s romanticized nickname emblazoned on it to attract tourists eager for their own taste of solitude.

While Boucher’s tendency to live alone made his nickname appropriate, it is unclear if he got the moniker before the Santa Fe Railroad came to his neck of the Canyon. And his propensity for hosting tourists at his camp and his friendly reputation in the Grand Canyon community make it seem that he wasn’t a true hermit.

Was it truly his  solitary that ultimately lifestyle ultimately led to Boucher’s enduring nickname, or was it simply a corporate marketing campaign? Either way, Louis Boucher’s legacy lives on as the Hermit of Grand Canyon.

So what happened to Boucher after he sold off his claims? In 1912, he left Grand Canyon and worked in a coal mine near Moreland, Utah. After that — no-one knows. Did he die working the coal mines of Utah? Did he trek home to Canada to live out his last days? Fittingly, the final chapter of Boucher’s story has been lost in the sands of time, in true “hermit” fashion.

Cover artwork courtesy of: Midjourney

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Jake Case

Jake is a naturalist, writer, and landscape photographer from Arizona. A geographer by education, he’s worked as a park ranger with the National Park Service, a tour guide at the Grand Canyon South Rim, and a docent at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. Jake has seriously practiced landscape photography since 2009. You can learn more about Jake on the About page.

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