It started with a promise in 1929 by the precursor of the Billings Chamber of Commerce to care for Kelly's gravesite atop the Rims. As the years passed and Yellowstone Kelly's final resting place fell into disarray, littered with trash and occasionally vandalized, the impressive explorer's memorial was all but forgotten by the community. The Billings Chamber was spurred into action when a tourist relayed her complaints about the site and subsequent decision to leave Billings earlier than planned to vacation elsewhere. The Chamber quickly set about organizing a Yellowstone Kelly Interpretive Site Committee, tasked with planning and executing the restoration of the Yellowstone Kelly Memorial and transforming it into an area of respect, bringing honor back to a veteran, tourists into our community, and pride to our citizens. In the summer of 2017 the project was completed, opened to the public in a celebration that drew a couple hundred residents. Now it is a beacon of encouragement sitting atop the Rims--an example of the amazing work our community can accomplish when we work together.
How Do I Get There?
Who is buried in Yellowstone Kelly’s tomb? Hint: Not Ulysses S. Grant. Where is Yellowstone Kelly’s tomb? Hint: It is not a tomb, just an inauspicious concrete crypt in Swords Rimrock Park overlooking downtown Billings. To get there, drive to the trailhead east of the airport and then walk or drive one mile along the Rims toward MetraPark. The gravesite is on the Heritage Trail, 23 miles of paved paths that snake through Billings. The Billings Chamber is a key player in developing this trail system that benefits residents and helps attract businesses and tourists.
Unfortunately, the neglected Yellowstone Kelly gravesite is an embarrassment to our community and the memory of the veteran buried there. If properly redeveloped, this historic monument could become a must-see destination along the Heritage Trail system. For these reasons the Chamber decided to make the renovation of the gravesite a top priority.