A Most Extensive View

Pompey's Pillar

aerial view of a large rock on the Yellowstone plains

Photo &copy Jim Wark

On July 25, 1806, William Clark describe the view from atop Pompy's Tower:

From the top of this Tower I could discover two low Mountains & the Rocky Mts. Covered with Snow S W. One of them appeared to be extencive and bore S. 15° E. about 40 miles. The other I take to be what the Indians Call the Little wolf Mtn. I can only see the Southern extremity of it which bears N 55° about 35 Miles. The plains to the South rise from the distance of about 6 miles the width of the bottom gradually to the mountains in that derection. A large Creek with an extencive Vally the direction of which is S. 25° E. meanders boutifully through this plain.

The "Rocky Mts Covered with Snow S W." may refer to the Pryor Mountains an island range of arched crustal uplifts separated from the higher an d more imposing Beartooth Mountains to the west by the valley of the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone. The north half of the Pryors is within the Crow Indian Reservation; the southern half includes the 32,000-acre Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range, one of only two such preserves in the U.S.

The "Little Wolf Mtn." the Mandans and Hidatsas evidently told him about may be Dunn Mountain, the "Southern extremity" of the isolated Bull Mountains.

On the Northerly Side of the river high romantic Clifts approach & jut over the water for Some distance both above and below.

Geologists believe Pompeys Pillar1 once was connected to those "romantic Clifts" until it was separated from them when the oxbow on which it stood was cut through at the base of its bend by a much larger Yellowstone River.

A large Brook which at this time has Some running muddy water falls in to the Rochejhone immediately opposite Pompys Tower. Back from the river for Some distance on that Side the hills are ruged & some pine. . . . The plains are open and extensive. After Satisfying my Self Sufficiently in this delightfull prospect of the extensive Country around, and the emence herds of Buffalow, Elk and wolves in which it abounded, I decended and proceeded on a fiew miles.

1. The United States Board of Geographic Names omits the apostrophe from place names. See http://mapping.usgs.gov/www/gnis/bgn.html