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Lewis and Clark
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

historic site Bozeman Pass

Location: Gallatin County, along I-90 (U.S. 10-191), about 13 miles east of Bozeman.

Like the city just to its west, this pass was named after John M. Bozeman, who in 1863-66 brought prospectors and emigrants through it northward from the Platte Valley route of the California-Oregon Trail to the Montana gold mines and settlements. The pass might more aptly have been named after Sacagawea, for on July 15, 1806, on the return journey from the Pacific, she had guided the Clark contingent across it from the Gallatin to the Yellowstone River Valley. There, the group built canoes and proceeded downriver to the Missouri, where a reuniting with the Lewis party took place.

Besides Clark and Sacagawea, the detachment consisted of her infant son, Pomp; her mate, Charbonneau; York; Sergeant Pryor; and seven privates. The nine soldiers, Charbonneau, and York apparently were the first nonnatives to see and traverse the pass. Two days earlier, at the Three Forks of the Missouri, Sergeant Ordway and nine men had taken the canoes recovered at Camp Fortunate, Mont., and headed down the Missouri to meet part of the Lewis complement at the Great Falls; at the same time, the Clark party, with 50 horses, pushed overland toward the Yellowstone River.

Since Indian days, the pass has always been a thoroughfare and accommodated some sort of road or trail. In the 1880's the Northern Pacific Railroad built its main line up the Yellowstone Valley. Until a tunnel could be built through and below the pass, which has an elevation of 5,712 feet, the line utilized a switchback. Later, in 1910, the railroad dug a new tunnel and vacated the old one. Although Sacagawea was not honored in the name of the pass, in 1903 the U.S. Geological Survey named the Bridger Range's highest peak after her. Rocky and rising to a height of 9,665 feet, it is 18 miles northwest of Bozeman Pass.

Last Updated: 22-Feb-2004