“a sacred tower, enticing us to explore”
A geologic feature protrudes out of the rolling prairie that surrounds the Black Hills. The site is considered Sacred to the Lakota and other tribes that have a connection to the area. Hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. Devils Tower entices us to explore and define our place in the natural and cultural world. Protruding out of the rolling prairie that surrounds the Black Hills region, Devils Tower is a monolith of uncommon igneous rock (phonolite). President Theodore Roosevelt used the 1906 Antiquities Act, to create the monument based on natural rather than cultural features. This site is considered a Sacred place to the Lakota and other tribes that have a connection to the Black Hills and surrounding area. Porcupines spend a good deal of their lives stripping off the outer bark of trees to expose and eat the cambrium layer. You can see many examples of this at Devils Tower when you walk along the Tower Trail. The columns that create Devils Tower can be 4, 5, 6, or 7 sided. Some geologists believe the last column fell 10,000 years ago. Devils Tower has been featured in several movies, including Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Devils Tower has been a sacred site for Native Americans since they happened upon it centuries ago. Different tribes have different stories, but they're all very similar. The Lakota and the Kiowa tell a tale of two young girls who, while out playing, were spotted by seveal enormous bears who began to give chase. The girls, in an attempt to escape, climbed to the top of Devils Tower, and then fell to their knees and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them as the bears began to scale the rocks behind them. The Great Spirit raised the rock to the heavens, and as the cliff grew steeper, the bears fell backwards, their claw marks as they tried to hang on being the ridges on the side of the tower. Once the rock reached the sky, the girls were turned into stars-- the constellation we know today as the Pleiades. A Sioux version has two boys being chased by a huge bear named Mato-- they climb onto the rock and pray to the creator Wakan Tanka, who raises the rock as the bear falls down the side, leaving the scratch marks. The boys are then rescued by an eagle named Wanblee, and Mato sulks off to Bear Butte, named for him. The Cheyenne version is much darker: in it, there is a large group of girls, most of whom are killed by the bear. Two escape and solicite help from two boys, who have the girls lure the bear to the top of Devil's Tower so they can shoot it on the underside of its foot with an arrow, supposedly the bear's only weak spot. As they boys fire arrows at the bear, it leaves scratch marks on the Tower, and in the end, the bear gives up and leaves.
This was the first national monument, declared by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. The incredible geological formation was used in Steven Speilberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There's an entrance fee that's good for 7 days. I recommend getting up early to see the sunrise and also if can you manage it, the sunset is out-of-this-world.
Devils tower is a neat stop. It's a national park, so it is very accommodating for anybody that comes. But get ready for some weird as you drive up to the tower. The crazies are all over this site. It has a history of cryptozoological mythology that I wasn't really ready for. If you do go, make sure to drive the scenic route on the north side of 90. You will get a great view of the tower for about 20 miles. You can read more on my blog below:
Beautiful! I didn't realize how amazing the tower and surrounding area would be. Hillsides were green, lots of red rock all around and Devils Tower National Monument was even better than I expected. Definitely worth the trip. Heading to Mt Rushmore now - taking the scenic route on HWY 24 - much better than I-90.
Devils tower (to me at least) doesn't look all that impressive in photographs but once I drove up to it my mind was instantly changed. the first moment you can see it is about 10 km's away and it is absolutely massive!!
Photo tip: do the hike around the base of the tower and stick around til after sunset to see the milky way in one of the darkest places in america! Also if you are lucky you will see climbers coming down after they watched sunset on the top of the tower!
Devil's Tower is freaking awesome. It just rises out of the ground as you drive up to it, looks like nothing else in this world, and has a totally cool history and place within American Indian tradition. I'd absolutely recommend walking around the base of the monument, since it's a beautiful walk that's also very doable for visitors of all ages.
As a kid, I vividly remember seeing in the visitors center, the Herbert Collins painting of the gigantic bear from the legend climbing the tower and chasing the women to the top. Totally freaked me out and I didn't want to walk around the base of it. Parents made me go anyway. Google it - "Herbert Collins Devil's Tower" and you'll see what I mean!!
Wow! Awe inspiring.
I must say, this was the site I was least excited about experiencing before the trip. I just kept thinking, "why do I want to see a big rock?" This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the vacation. This is not a big rock, it's an overwhelmingly huge feature. We could see it from miles away on our drive in. And even that far away, it was breathtaking.
The path around the tower is easy. You could walk it easily in 30 minutes, but we took our time, climbed some of the lower rocks, took pictures of the wildlife and just sat to soak up the nature. We spent about 2 hours.
Note that parking near the entrance of the path (near the visitor's center) is extremely limited. We arrived early and there were several spots, but there were none when we left about noon time.
Don't miss the prairie dog farm on the drive up to the tower. They have no fear, so you can pull over and get some great pics.
No need to actually pay to get past the park service. Very beautiful to see!!!
A must see. It is about 30 minutes off of I 90. Good place to stop for a picnic lunch.
Haven't had a chance to hike it yet, but it's beautiful to see looming in the distance. Got some really great shots.
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Devils Tower National Monument
- Sun - Sat: 12:00 am - 11:59 pm
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