Prior to this visit to Devils Tower, I had only been to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. I had been wanting to visit Devils Tower for a long time. The weather was not promising. I had just come through a storm beginning at Bear Butte, South Dakota and as I approached the Tower, I wondered of I would even get to see it. The clouds were down to the level of the road in most places. But things got better.
The process of forming Devils Tower began about 50 million years ago. Magma (molten rock) was injected into layers of sedimentary rock, forming the tower one and one-half miles below the surface of the earth. It has since taken millions of years to erode away the surrounding rock to expose the Tower we see today. Today, the Tower stands 867 feet (264 meters) high, from the Visitor Center to the Summit. The Tower and the Black Hills area have been a gathering place and home to many people. Archeological discoveries show that Native people lived here 10,000 years ago. As time passed, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa, Lakota and Shoshone all developed cultural and spiritual connections with the Tower. They continue to hand down their beliefs from one generation to the next. A note here: These high places of worship were not the objects of American Indian worship. They chose high places, because those places placed them closer to the Creator. Most Native American Sacred Places are on high ground such as a large hill, mountain or in this case the Tower. The top of the Tower is rounded rather than flat. It is approximately the size of a football field. The top is home to woodrats, mice, ants and an occasional snake. At varying times of the year the Tower is also home to deer, chipmunks, porcupines, golden and bald eagles, rock doves, turkey vultures and hawks.
Information Sources: National Park Service signs
As you can see my first views of the Tower were not much to see
As I drove the access road to the parking area, I could see what appeared to be the top
And there it was!
The Lakota name for the Tower is Mateo tipi or Grizzly Bear Lodge. There are many legends surrounding the Tower. One legend goes like this. There were seven young girls chased onto a low rock to escape attacking bears. They prayed for help and their prayers were answered. The rock began to rise and carried them upward to safety as the claws of the leaping bears left furrowed columns in the sides of the ascending tower. Ultimately, the rock grew so high that the girls reached the sky where they were transformed into the constellation known as Pleiades.
These many photos of the Tower were taken from several points around the base on the loop trail. I apologize for any duplications. I took nearly 200 photos both horizontal and vertical on my way around the Tower.
The trail is so close to the Tower at this point, you can barely see the top rim
This marks the halfway point on the loop trail. Someone built a snowman.
Details of the
"bear claw marks" showing the hexagonal fracturing of the rock
These are detail photos of the wooden ladder used by the first human (whites) to scale the Tower. No one can say for certain that no Indians never climbed the Tower before the white man came here. Today, rock climbers routinely climb the Tower. Out of respect for traditional cultural practices, a voluntary climbing closure is in effect in June of every year. Visitors are asked to refrain from climbing the Tower or scrambling in the boulders then.
Devils Tower is composed of symetrical columns which are the tallest (some more than 600 feet) and widest (10 to 20 feet) in the world. Along the loop trail columns lie toppled and broken among the pine trees. They are 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-sided. Upon cooling cracks formed stress points in the igneous rock, which over time cracked and connected and grew vertically to form the columns. These cracks tended to create mostly 6-sided columns -- nature's tightest and strongest fit.
The main information sign and the Visitor Center
Nearly all the signs I encountered during my walk around the Tower looked like the one on the left. I had to clean them off to read them. There was only one set of footprints on the trail, when I began, but they turned back after a few hundred feet. I was alone with the Tower.
The trail leading to the loop trail around the Tower was cleared of snow, while the loop trail was not. There are benches along the trail for resting of weary bones, but in this weather it was best to keep moving.
The only wildlife I saw, other than some birds, were these two deer. It may even be the same deer, although the photos were taken on opposite sides of the tower.
Rocks and Red Cliffs
Most of these boulders would dwarf Arvie
The Great Race
Once the buffalo believed they were the most powerful creature. Humans thought this unfair. So the buffalo, humans, and all the animals held a race. Because humans only have two legs, four birds were chosen to race for us. The race was long and hard. The animals ran, bleeding from their noses and mouths, staining the earth red. Their hooves pounded the earth so hard the racecourse sank and the land in the middle rose up to form the Black Hills. The magpie beat the buffalo for the humans. This is why the Indian people hunt and kill the buffalo.
A story told by the Lakota on the origin of the red rocks that circle the Black Hills and the Belle Fourche River Vally at the Tower.