Fording Place, Billings, Montana

Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana

View northeast, above Sacrifice Cliff

Aerial photo of oil refineries, freeway, and river cutting a bluff

© 2001 Airphoto, Jim Wark. All rights reserved.

At right, opposite the city (pop. 100,000) of Billings, Montana is the landmark William Clark identified on 24 July 1806 as "a high clift of yellowish Gritty Stone on the Stard Side." It is now known as Sacrifice Cliff. Six miles back up the Yellowstone from this rimrock, Clark had his detachment's 26 remaining horses driven across to the south side of the river, then ferried Sgt. Pryor, with Pvts. Shannon and Windsor, across in the dugout catamarans. Pryor's route took them south east (right) of the cliff and parallel to the river for the the next two days, when an unexpected event suddenly changed their plans.


While waiting for Pryor to catch up with the horses on the twenty-fourth, Clark had observed what possibly was a Sun Dance lodge of the Crow Indians:

It is of a Conocil form 60 feet diamuter at its base built of 20 poles each pole 2½ feet in Secumpheranc and 45 feet Long built in the form of a lodge & covered withbusnes.    in this Lodge I observed a Cedar bush Sticking up on the opposit side of the lodge fronting the dore, on one side was a Buffalow head, and on the other Several Sticks bent and Stuck in the ground.    a Stuffed Buffalow skin was Suspended from the Center with the back down.    the top of those poles were deckerated with feathers of the Eagle & Calumet Eagle also Several Curious pieces of wood bent in Circleler form with sticks across them in form of a Griddle hung on tops of the lodge poles others in form of a large Sturrip. This Lodge was errected last Summer. It is Situated in the Center of a butifull Island thinly Covered with Cotton wood under which the earth which is rich is Covered with wild rye and a Species of grass resembling the bluegrass, and a mixture of Sweet grass which the Indian plat and ware around their necks for its cent which is of a Strong sent like that of the Vinella.

Yellowstone River at Billings, Montana

View northeast, down the Yellowstone

Aerial photo of a freeway crossing a river in a flat valley

© 2001 Airphoto, Jim Wark. All rights reserved.

That night Clark and the rest of his party camped a little below a "bold" stream that was 35 yards wide, which he labeled "Pryers river." It entered the Yellowstone at the far edge of the refinery at upper right. It may have qualified as a river back then, but nowadays it is more suitably known as Dry Creek. Perhaps that is why the next morning, on second thought, some eight miles farther downstream—in the distance, about where the Yellowstone bends north for the second time in this view—he labeled another watercourse "Pryors Creek." Inexplicably, "Pryor's River" made the cut for Clark's final map, which accompanied Nicholas Biddle's 1814 paraphrase of his and Lewis's journals, while the longer, more substantial "Pryors Creek," which is still labeled with that name on modern maps, was overlooked.