Escherichia coli O157:H7 causes bloody diarrhea and potentially fatal systemic sequelae in humans. Cattle are most frequently identified as the primary source of infection, and E. coli O157:H7 generally colonizes the gastrointestinal tracts of cattle without causing disease. In this study, persistence and tropism were assessed for four different E. coli O157:H7 strains. Experimentally infected calves shed the organism for at least 14 days prior to necropsy. For the majority of these animals, as well as for a naturally colonized animal obtained from a commercial beef farm, the highest numbers of E. coli O157:H7 were found in the feces, with negative or significantly lower levels detected in lumen contents taken from the gastrointestinal tract. Detailed examination demonstrated that in these individuals the majority of tissue-associated bacteria were adherent to mucosal epithelium within a defined region extending up to 5 cm proximally from the recto-anal junction. The tissue targeted by E. coli O157:H7 was characterized by a high density of lymphoid follicles. Microcolonies of the bacterium were readily detected on the epithelium of this region by immunofluorescence microscopy. As a consequence of this specific distribution, E. coli O157:H7 was present predominantly on the surface of the fecal stool. In contrast, other E. coli serotypes were present at consistent levels throughout the large intestine and were equally distributed in the stool. This is a novel tropism that may enhance dissemination both between animals and from animals to humans. The accessibility of this site may facilitate simple intervention strategies.