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Spotlight: Pompeys Pillar National Monument and Clark Days

Spotlight: Pompeys Pillar National Monument and Clark Days

Experience the view Captain William Clark witnessed more than 200 years ago.

Pompeys Pillar Visitors to the monument can see Captain William Clark's signature etched in stone. (Bob Wick/BLM)

What You’ll Find

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 wrote 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.

Getting There

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.

Stay Here

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, or check the Pompeys Pillar section of Montana's Official State Travel Site.

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.

Don’t Forget

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.

Try This

Plan your visit during Clark Days—held during the last weekend in July or the first weekend August each year— and celebrate the anniversary of William Clark's visit to the site on July 25, 1806. The event includes a main presentation along with interpretive programs, demonstrations and nature walks. Campers—take advantage of the only night of the year when overnight camping is allowed at the Pillar, the Saturday night during Clark Days weekend. The Bureau of Land Management and The Friends of Pompeys Pillar jointly sponsor this event.

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.