Where's Pompy?

Bundy Road bridge over the Yellowstone River

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interactive aerial view: Where's Pompey?

© 2001 Jim Wark, Airphoto

Copies of Jim Wark's aerial photos of the Lewis and Clark Trail are available direct from AIRPHOTO North America.

As Lieutenant James Bradley, of the 7th U.S. Infantry, remarked in 1876, Pompey's Pillar, as a rock, is not impressive. It was "overtopped by the neighboring bluffs of which at one time it formed a part." In those days it still marked a heavily used crossroads, river ford, camping ground and sacred site. There were few if any Cottonwood trees around it, The surrounding floodplain was imprinted with the footprints of Indians and their horses, as well as bison and other wildlife. The ford, which centered about where those bridges are now, probably was well-worn and muddy. The place, its functions, and its meanings were known to man and beast, far and wide.

Today it is more of a destination in itself, a target, rather than a life-centered place. Today it is even less imposing, surrounded on three sides by a dense forest of Cottonwood trees. From the interstate highway at upper right, and at superhighway speed, one can scarcely make it out, "overtopped" as it is by 80-year-old cottonwoods, and the higher cliffs on the opposite side of the river. It's equally problematic from the air. Even knowing its approximate location in terms of navigational coordinates—latitude and longitude—of the rock, photographer Jim Wark made several passes over it without making visual contact, and had to make another trip from Pueblo, Colorado, just to get this shot.

The highway (Bundy Road) over the steel truss bridge connects this part of the Yellowstone Valley with the Musselshell Valley, beyond the Bull Mountains to the north (left). The old bridge was completed in 1915, the new one in the late 1990s. Charles Bundy settled on the north side of the Yellowstone here in the 1880s.