Pompey’s Pillar, originally named Pompy’s Tower, shown here with replicas of two dugout canoes that Clark had built here, impressed William Clark on his journey to explore the Yellowstone River.
JULY 3, 1806, TRAVELER’S REST, PRESENT-DAY LOLO, MONTANA. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark wished each other well as the Corps of Discovery split into two parties at Traveler’s Rest, a camp that they had used on their journey west the previous year. This was the return trip for the explorers and though tired, they wanted to document and map as much of this new territory as possible. Lewis was to follow the Blackfoot River to the Great Falls of the Missouri while Clark would take his crew and follow the Yellowstone River to its confluence with the Missouri where the Corps would reunite.
Although Lewis was the official Captain and leader of the Corps, he insisted that Clark, his second in command, be treated in every way his equal and they had no problem dividing the group for an extended time. All the men were well seasoned frontiersmen by this time, having spent over two years afield and they were confident in their abilities, even when their numbers were halved.
Three days later, Clark’s group crossed the Continental Divide at Gibbon’s Pass, east of present-day Sula, Montana. They were headed for Three Forks, where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers formed the headwaters of the Missouri River. First though, they made a much-anticipated stop at a location where they had cached supplies on August 20, 1805. Principle among these supplies was chewing tobacco, more prized by Clark’s men than gunpowder. This site, known as Camp Fortunate, is now buried beneath the waters of Clark Canyon Reservoir, just north of present-day Dell, Montana.
It was near this location on August 17, 1805, that Sacajawea, the Corps’ Native American interpreter and goodwill ambassador, joyously encountered her brother and the people of her tribe, from whom she had been kidnapped as a child.
From Three Forks, they moved eastward toward present-day Livingston, Montana where they encountered the Yellowstone River, due north of what would become Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, just 66 years later.
From there, the trip was routine and hardly noteworthy until July 25th, 1806. On that date, about 25 miles east of present-day Billings, Montana, they came to a tall petroglyph-tattooed sandstone pillar.
Clark’s diary reads: “... At 4PM [I] arrived at the remarkable rock situated in an extensive bottom. This rock I ascended and from its top had a most extensive view in every direction...after satisfying myself sufficiently in this delightful prospect of the extensive country around, and the emence herds of Buffalow, Elk and wolves in which it abounded, I decended and proceeded on.”
Clark’s diary continues, “This rock which I shall call Pompy's Tower [named for Sacajawea’s two-year-old son whom Clark affectionately nicknamed Pompy, meaning Little Chief, in Shoshone] is 200 feet high and 400 paces in secumpherance and only axcessible on one side which is from the N.E. the other parts of it being a perpendicular clift of lightish coloured gritty rock.” (in 1814 the name was changed to Pompey’s Pillar).
The site was admirable in part because of a geologic formation on the north side of the river. There, a high steep bluff, nearly 80 miles long, parallels the river. Across from Pompey’s Pillar, was a quarter-mile-wide gap in this otherwise challenging wildlife barrier. Bison, elk, pronghorn and more all poured through the gap and crossed the river.
I can only conclude that after all he had seen and experienced on an expedition that covered about 7,000 miles, for Clark to make such entries into his journal, this indeed must have been an extraordinary place.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), The Best of Nature is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (425 Capital)
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho