POLLOCK, S.D. (AP) – Three stone idols described by Lewis and Clark nearly two centuries ago may be sitting on a resort near Pollock, two miles south of the North Dakota border.

A scholar on the explorers says the idols could be the ones reported by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The discovery by Denny Jensen is drawing interest as the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s trek draws near.

In lore of the Arikara tribe, the idols are a pair of star-crossed lovers forbidden to marry and a faithful dog all turned to stone. A long passage about them is in the explorers’ journals as they entered what is now North Dakota in the fall of 1804.

Jensen said in a telephone interview this week that he found the rocks in early fall last year. They were above a creek feeding into the Missouri River in the area where the explorers detailed their location in general terms a few miles up the creek.

North Dakota native and Lewis and Clark scholar Clay Jenkinson of Reno, Nev., examined them last week. He declined to declare that the stones are the ones Lewis and Clark found.

“If these prove to be the exact stones, it would not surprise me. They’re in the right place, and, with a small amount of imagination, they can be construed as a man, a dog and a woman,” Jenkinson said.

He said he had wondered about the idols for years but especially the past 15 months while writing a new edition of the explorers’ journal entries from North Dakota for the State Historical Society.

He measured, sketched and photographed the stones for inclusion in the newly edited journals. Only about 30 landmarks described in the journals can still be viewed today along the trail between St. Louis and Fort Clatsop in Oregon.

Authentication will be tough, Jenkinson said, because the explorers never walked up the creek – which they mapped as Stone Idol Creek – to look at the stones. Clark’s journal passage recounted the legend told to them by Mandan Chief Pocasse.

“There’s no bridge between the story and the spot that Clark or any diarist would have provided,” Jenkinson said. “Clark’s is the only known reference to this phenomenon.”

A historical marker at Pollock suggests the stones’ location is farther east.

Jensen is a former history teacher who has studied early maps and written accounts of the expedition. He said he wasn’t looking for the idols when he went to an adjacent field in search of rocks for landscaping.

His West Pollock Resort is southwest of town and in view of the river backed up now as Lake Oahe. The creek is now called Spring Creek.

“I dug one up with a backhoe, set it down, and, when I looked back at it, I thought, ‘That looks like a dog sitting there,’ ” Jensen said.

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He dug up four other rocks, larger than the dog, and set up two that he thought fit for size and symmetry.

They are among the few stones along the side of the creek, and that boosts the likelihood that they are the ones described by Lewis and Clark, said Jenkinson and Michael Fosha, South Dakota’s assistant state archaeologist.

Fosha inspected the rocks at Jensen’s request.

In a response, he wrote, “While we may never know which of the stones were the human and dog effigies, it is my opinion that you have identified the approximate location these objects originally set.”

If early maps are accurate, Jensen’s find is no more than one-eighth to one-fourth of a mile off, Fosha estimated.

“But, to say this is the place and these are the rocks, we can’t say that. There’s no one alive today who saw them,” Fosha said.

The three rocks are clustered in a strip of lush grass beside a plowed field. Jensen’s resort cabins and store are within view to the south.

Of the three, the shape of a dog on its haunches is most easily recognizable.

The forms of the man and the woman are about 4 feet high. The male form seems mostly head and facial profile. The female has a red coloration and a pink stripe that Jenkinson and a Standing Rock Sioux woman independently said might be a shawl.

Legend has it that the Arikara woman turned to stone while holding a cluster of the wild grapes that Clark said grew profusely at the mouth of the creek. The shape of the rock believed to represent the woman has little to suggest such a cluster.

Authentication would have to come from archaeological information or from an Arikara descendant who has an oral tradition of the legend, Jenkinson said.

Marilyn Hudson, who directs the tribal museum for the Arikara, Mandan and Hidatsa tribes at New Town, S.D., said she is familiar with the legend from the journals, but not from any other source.

“Wouldn’t this be interesting? Oh, my goodness,” she said.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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