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5 Things You Need To Know About The Montana Lewis and Clark Trail

Stillwater County Visitors Montana Lewis and Clark Trail

People travel to Montana from all over the country because they are fascinated by the history here. We all know how Lewis and Clark helped put Montana on the map in America’s dramatic history, but maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve brushed up on your facts. Here we give you a brief overview on the Montana Lewis and Clark Trail so that you’ll be in the know the next time you’re in Big Sky Country.

Read on for interesting facts and suggestions on where to visit in Stillwater County.

Montana Lewis and Clark Trail – Everything You Need To Know

The Montana Lewis and Clark Trail is one of the most iconic and maybe even the greatest American discovery expeditions. Here we give you just a few cool facts that you might not have known about it before.

1. Lewis and Clark Were Interesting Men

The first thing you might not have known about these men is that Lewis’ first name was Meriwether. He met William Clark after being court-martialed for challenging a superior to a duel during a drunken dispute. He was transferred to another rifle company, where his commander turned out to be the one who would join him on their famous journey.

Lewis had previously served as Thomas Jefferson’s presidential secretary, while Clark had been commissioned by President George Washington as a lieutenant.

2. The Entire Trail Is About 3,700 Miles

Though the official Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail  is about 3,700 miles, the entire Corps traveled more 8,000 miles on their expeditions. The trails starts from Wood River, Illinois to the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon. Their expedition lasted 2 years, and is now widely recognized as one of the most influential journeys in America.

They helped contribute significant geographic and scientific knowledge of the United States, and also helped the expansion of fur trades.

3. They Thought They Would See Wooly Mammoths

Before the Montana Lewis and Clark Trail, most Americans could only imagine what kind of wildlife were waiting in the uncharted territories beyond the Rocky Mountains. Thomas Jefferson was convinced that the pair would run into herds of wooly mammoths and giant ground sloths.

Though they didn’t see any extinct creatures, they did document and describe 122 new animals including beavers, grizzly bears, and coyotes. They also described 178 unknown plants.

4. Only One Member Of The Expedition Died On The Journey

Surprisingly, only one member of the expedition died during the trip. In 1804, Sergeant Charles Floyd died from what historians now believe was a burst appendix.

Over the entire 2 year journey, the explorers suffered a long array of troubles, including snakebites and venereal diseases, but no fatalities.

5. Pompey’s Pillar Was Named After Sacagawea’s Baby

In 1806, Clark carved his name and the date on a large rock near the Yellowstone River. He named the rock formation “Pompey’s Pillar,” which was named after Sacagawea’s son, Baptiste Charbonneau. Clark’s nickname for Baptiste was Pompy, which means “little chief” in the Shoshone language.

Luckily for you, Pompey’s Pillar is one of the places on the Montana Lewis and Clark Trail that you can visit. The rock face also shows animal drawings and other signatures, and we highly recommend you visit there for a little piece of Montana and American history.


Did you know these interesting facts about the Montana Lewis and Clark Trail? Though the expedition failed to identify a Northwest Passage across the continent, their maps and botanical samples and peaceful relationships with dozens of Native American tribes is what made their names go down in history forever.Montana, and Stillwater County in particular, has a rich history that is full of adventure, expeditions, and inspiring stories. Learn all about the local history by visiting The Museum of the Beartooths, and take a tour of Stillwater County.

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