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Thunderclappers Still Ringing for Lewis & Clark aka The Scoop on the Poop

Here in Montana we take Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery very seriously. That is why we are excited to tell the world about the latest scoop on the, er, poop…or maybe it should be, the tale on the tinkle.

In all seriousness, Montana’s Travelers' Rest State Park, a Native American crossroads for centuries is also a location where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped on their journey to the Pacific Ocean in 1805 and then again on their way home in 1806.

We know this because archaeologists working at the park in the summer of 2002 excavated a mercury-tainted trench believed to be the Corps of Discovery's latrine. The medicine taken by Lewis and Clark’s men during their trip, Rush's Thunderclappers or sometimes referred to as Rush’s Thunderbolts, was extremely high in mercury and it is held that traces of the mercury would remain in the soil. Additional excavations turned up a fire hearth with evidence of lead ammunition manufacturing. These discoveries positioned the park as one of the few sites in the nation with physical confirmation of the group's visit—a truly unique designation—and visitors destination.

There are other intriguing clues to activities 200 years ago, including a tombac or metal button dating from 1750 to 1810. And of course, there is evidence of Native American use in the general area, principally by the Salish, Kootenai and Shoshone tribes.

Interpretive presentations and guided tours are available.