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Scenic Pompeys Pillar

Sign for Pompeys Pillar
Pompey's Pillar Information.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

Stairs to Pompeys Pillar
Pompey's Pillar.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

Corps of Discovery exhibit
Corps of Discovery Display.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

" ...I marked my name and the day of the month..."

- Clark
25 July 1806

In contrast to Lewis' troubled exploration of the Missouri and Marias, Clark's trip along the Yellowstone held pleasant surprises and visual wonders. Though he missed discovering Yellowstone Park by about 40 miles, he secured his place in history further east.

The pillar of sandstone was named "Pompy's Tower" on maps of the expedition. Clark named it in honor of Sacagawea's infant son, whom he'd nicknamed "Pompy," or "Little Pomp." On July 25, 1806, Captain Clark carved his name and the date on the rock. He also made note of the many prior inscriptions:

"The nativs have ingraved on the face of this rock the figures of animals and c. near which I marked my name and the day of the month and year." Clark's party camped nearby. The bison were so numerous and loud that the men had difficulty sleeping.

Custer and his men camped beneath the landmark in 1875, a year before his death at the Little Bighorn. They came under fire from Indians hidden atop the butte. The earliest petroglyphs, or rock etchings, described by Clark could have been as old as 8 centuries, probably the work of Shoshonean-group Indians. Many of the oldest traces left in the sandstone may have eroded with time. This erosion also accounts for the height of Clark's signature. In the relatively short span between 1806 and present day, the rock on which he stood has washed away. Protective screens were installed as early as 1882, to cover the signature and preserve it for posterity.