DAVE BRUNER: Photo Gallery — Pompey’s Pillar National Monument

This is for the history buffs out there.

On our way back from our trip east of Billings, Mont., is this site where William Clark from the Lewis and Clark expedition carved his name into the stone on the bluff that has come to be know as Pompey’s Pillar National Monument.

I have always wanted to see this, as I have read a lot about this historic expedition. Now, mission accomplished.

The Corps of Discovery reached Pompey’s Pillar on July 25, 1806. Having already reached the majestic Pacific Ocean and disproving the myth of the Northwest Passage and establishing sound relations with the indigenous peoples of the American West, the explorers were ready to return home with a wealth of stories and information. On the way back, the American pioneers continued to explore the surrounding areas and make new discoveries.

Pausing at Traveler’s Rest from June 30 to July 3, 1806, Lewis and Clark decided that it would be best to divide the group into separate parties, maximizing their exploratory range. Clark and his party traversed Bozeman Pass, set out down the Yellowstone River and headed for the caches at Beaverhead. Along the way, the crew came across a prominent rock formation, located on the south bank of the river in present-day Nibbe, Mont. Naming the anomalous natural formation after Sacagawea’s child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, or “Pomp,” Clark wrote of the discovery in his journal that evening:

… At 4PM (I) arrived at the remarkable rock situated in an extensive bottom. This rock I ascended and from it’s top had a most extensive view in every direction. This rock which I shall call Pompy’s Tower is 200 feet high and 400 paces in secumpherance and only axcessible on one side which is from the N.E. the other parts of it being a perpendicular clift of lightish coloured gritty rock. The Indians have made 2 piles of stone on the top of this tower. The nativs have ingraved on the face of this rock the figures of animals &c. (Jones 2000, 185-186)”

Clark, too, left his mark at Pompey’s Pillar, engraving his name and the date into the stone; still visible, his mark is probably the only extant on-site evidence of the entire expedition.

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