This Old Campsite
This Old Campsite

Devils Tower
National Monument

Devils Tower National Monument became the first National Monument in the United States by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The Devils Tower is located in the Black Hills in northeastern Wyoming.

Devils Tower is a very impressive geological structure that rises from the plains like a lone sentinel guarding the entrance to an unknown world. It is one of those geological features that is awe inspiring and makes you wonder why it happened. There is a lot of Indian lore about the Tower and how it came to be. Even today the Tower is a part of the American Indian spiritual life. They still come to make prayer offerings, seek visions, conduct sweat lodge ceremonies and perform the annual Sun Dance.

Of all the American Indian tribes that hold this place as sacred ground, each one has their own story of how the Tower was formed. The Kiowa people say: "Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and one brother. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet. His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur. Directly there was a bear where the boy had been. The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear after them. They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them. It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air. The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach. It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws. The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Big Dipper." As you look at Devils Tower and the way the towering rocks are formed, you can imagine that the claws of a giant bear dug out the crevices in the rock.

There are several scientific theories as to how Devils Tower came to be but there is no final answer. However, geologists agree that it is an igneous intrusion into the sedimentary layers above and that the molten rock from which the Tower was formed did not breach the surface. With that said and with all of the Indian lore surrounding its formation, it is a beautiful place to visit.

So what do you do when you get to the Devils Tower? Admiring the wonders of the Tower would be the primary reason most people come to this area. However, for those of you who like to climb on rocks, this is a great place for experienced rock climbers. About 5000 rock climbers come here each year to attempt the climb up the Tower. According to one of the rangers at the park, at least 2000 per year make it to the top. For those of us who can't climb rocks, there is a nice one mile loop trail that goes around the base of the Tower. Taking this nice leisurely hike gives you a nice view from all angles of the Tower. You can also take some time to view the prairie dog town as you drive into the park. As you observe these little creatures you might want to ponder the question as to how a rodent like animal got the name of "dog".

Devils Tower National Monument makes for a nice day trip if you are camping in the Black Hills area. However, if you plan to spend more than a few hours in the area you might want to consider staying at the Devils Tower KOA which is located at the entrance of the park. There is also a small campground inside the park. For those who don't camp, there are a number of small towns in the Black Hills that have adequate accommodations. No matter how you handle it, a trip to the Devils Tower National Monument is well worth your time.