In 1870, Frederick V. Hayden, leader of the United States Geological Survey of the Territories, invited photographer William Henry Jackson on the survey of Wyoming as an unpaid photographer. At the end of the summer, Jackson accepted Hayden’s offer of employment and held the position of official photographer of Hayden's surveys until 1878. The hiring contract stipulated that all negatives made on the surveys were to be property of the USGS.
In the summer of 1871, Jackson accompanied Hayden's survey in the Yellowstone region. Jackson's photographs helped convince Congress to vote for the Yellowstone National Park bill in 1872. In the following seasons, Jackson documented Hayden's survey in Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Colorado. His subjects included, among others, the Mount of the Holy Cross (1873), the Ute reservation at Las Pinos, Colorado, and cliff ruins in Mancos Canyon, near Mesa Verde, Colorado (1874).