Beaverhead Rock State Park

By Rick and Susie Graetz  |  Office of Research and Creative Scholarship  |  University of Montana
Beaverhead Rock | Rick and Susie Graetz

“the evening again proved cloudy much to my mortification and prevented my making any lunar observations. the Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our right which she informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation on a river beyond the mountains which runs to the west. this hill she says her nation calls the beaver’s head from a conceived remblance of it’s figure to the head of that animal. she assures us that we shall either find her people on this river or on the river immediately west of it’s source; which from it’s present size cannot be very distant.”

 — Meriwether Lewis, August 8, 1805

The “Indian woman,” Sacagawea, was a 16-year-old Lemhi Shoshone native who had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa tribe at today’s Three Forks in southwest Montana and was living in the Mandan villages, near present-day Bismarck when she joined the Corps of Discovery and became a valuable addition.

Her recognition of the landmark from her childhood was most encouraging to the captains who, knowing their water route was about to end, had been searching for the Shoshone in order to buy the horses they desperately needed.

Beaverhead Rock, also called Point-of Rocks, is located 14 miles north of Dillon, Montana on Hwy 41. This mass of Madison Limestone, appearing to be a beaver swimming with only its head above the water, is now a Montana State Park.

Five days later, on August 13, 1805, on the west side of Lemhi Pass, Lewis encountered the Shoshone people. Sacagawea’s prediction was right!