Spotlight: Pompeys Pillar National Monument and Clark Days
Experience the view Captain William Clark witnessed more than 200 years ago.
Pompeys Pillar stands out on both the landscape of eastern Montana and in American history. The 150-foot sandstone outcrop along the banks of the Yellowstone River is the site of the only known physical evidence along the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1804 to 1806. On his return trip to St. Louis, Captain William Clark noted the formation in his expedition journal, “This rock I ascended and from its top had a most extensive view in every direction on the Northerly Side of the river high romantic Clifts approach & jut over the water for Some distance both above and below...I marked my name and the day of the month and year." Clark named the formation Pomp’s Tower, after the nickname given to Sacagawea’s infant son. Located along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the sandstone butte was previously designated as a National Historic Landmark (1965) and established as a National Monument in 2001. The 5,700-square foot interpretive center opened in 2006.
Pompeys Pillar National Monument is about 25 miles east of Billings, Montana. The area is easily accessible from Interstate 94, using exit 23, or from Montana Highway 312. The interpretive center, restrooms, parking lot and day use area are fully accessible.
The Interpretive center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Overnight camping is only permitted on the last Saturday night of July in celebration of Clark Days. Check with the Pompeys Pillar Historical Association for hotel and motel accommodations nearby.
Make Sure You
Wind your way to the sandstone butte by following the Riverwalk, representing the Yellowstone River. The Riverwalk begins in the parking lot and meanders through the interpretative center to the base of the Pillar. Signs along the path quote from Clark's journals and tell of the party’s experiences from their entry on the Yellowstone on July 15, 1806, to their encampment at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers on August 3.
Enjoy a picnic or relax in the shade of cottonwood trees at the day use area next to the Yellowstone River.
Please take a look at Captain William Clark’s name etched in the rock more than 200 years ago. Be aware that there are numerous other cultural, historic, and natural resources that are vital to the Monument and should be treated with respect.
Days use fees are $7.00 per vehicle. There is no separate fee for the interpretive center. All fees are returned to the site and used to maintain and improve the facility. All valid federal recreation passes are honored at the site.
Plan your visit for Clark Days (July 27-28) to commemorate William Clark's visit to the site on July 25, 1806, on his trip down the Yellowstone River. Activities include interpretive programs, demonstrations, nature walks and a main presentation. The 2013 Clark Days Celebration will emphasize the Pillar’s Native American heritage with presentations, dancing and music performed by members of various tribes in Montana. The Saturday night of Clark Days is the only night of the year when overnight camping is allowed at the Pillar.
Admission fees are waived during Clark Days which is sponsored jointly by the Bureau of Land Management and the Friends of Pompeys Pillar. Nominal charges are made for food and refreshments.
Did You Know?
You can stand on the boardwalk atop Pompeys Pillar and identify the same landmarks Clark used to describe the site over 200 years ago. Clark’s signature was not the first marking made on Pompeys Pillar. He in fact inscribed his name next to Native American pictographs and petroglyphs, some of which can still be seen today.
The Crow Indians called the Pillar the place where the mountain lion lives. This was because there is a rock on the north face of the Pillar, which resembles the head of a mountain lion.
By Amy Krause
Bureau of Land Management