The painting depicts Native Americans spearfishing as their canoes pass by some unnamed but snow-covered mountain peaks. The men are preparing to launch into ice-cold waters filled with fish while their canoe is being propelled through the water by another man seated in the stern. A third man takes in the fishing net while someone else inspects what looks like a dead salmon. In the distance, behind them and beyond the snowy mountain peaks, another man standing upon an ice flow is just visible. He gazes across at their boat and its occupants.
In the painting, it's clear that it's sunset. One of the men is shown looking into the water, where he sees something that interests him. The man is portrayed against a dark backdrop, almost silhouetted in his native dress and equipment. His loose pantaloons, leggings, and patterned blanket reveal the Indian's intimacy with nature. The lake's surface reflects the colours of dusk; beside it, there is a fishing spear and other tools in a canoe which the man has pulled ashore. On the left side of the painting, there is vegetation along the bank of the water. The landscape features include mountains in the background with clouds above them; other vegetation on land; and a canoe that took Bierstadt about three months to paint.
In 1872, the painting was reproduced in "The Illustrated London News", where it was praised for its dramatic effects and praised the way Bierstadt depicted a landscape that contained a mixture of elements from the Old World and the New. In 1891, "The Nation" published a review which stated that it was not "unreasonably conventionalised", in reference to Bierstadt's attention to detail in his portrayal of nature.
Albert Bierstadt became one of the most successful painters in America with his romantic portrayals of Western landscapes. This painting was displayed at the National Academy of Design's annual exhibition in 1866, where it won a first prize medal. It also received an honourable mention at the Brooklyn Art Association's Annual Exhibition and is now part of the permanent collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was purchased by American politician and art collector Henry Gurdon Marquand from Albert Bierstadt in 1874. Marquand gifted the painting to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which can still be seen on display in Gallery 658. He is a celebrated artist whose work has travelled miles and miles across the globe.