The Corps of Discovery reached Pompey's Pillar on July 25, 1806.
Having already reached the majestic Pacific, disproved the myth
of the Northwest Passage, and established 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.
Two views of Pompey's Pillar
Photos from Bureau of Land Management
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, Montana. 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)
William Clark's signature,
dated July 25, 1806
Photo from Bureau of Land Management
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.
Pompey's Pillar National Monument, a National Historic
Landmark, is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S.
Department of the Interior. The Pillar overlooks the Yellowstone
River about 25 miles east of Billings, Montana. The National Monument is open
to walkin and drive-in visitation. Please call 406-875-2400, or visit
the monument's website
for further information. You can also download
(in pdf) the Pompey's Pillar National Historic Landmark nomination.