A geological mystery that became a cultural centre for the first tribes, America's first national monument and the backdrop for a movie
The Devils Tower in Wyoming was America’s first National Monument. Initially designated by Congress designated the area a U.S. forest reserve in 1892 this mysterious monolith became the nation’s first National Monument in 1906.
This tower of rock rises 1267 feet straight up from the Belle Fouche river. Most of the landscape surrounding Devils Tower is composed of sedimentary rocks. About 65 million years ago, during the Tertiary period, the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills were uplifted. Molten magma rose through the crust, intruding into the already existing sedimentary rock layers. Geologists agree that Devils Tower was formed by the intrusion of igneous material. What they cannot agree upon is how, exactly, that process took place. As the lava cooled columns formed. As the rock continued to cool, the vertical columns shrank horizontally in volume and cracks began to occur at 120-degree angles, forming the 6-sided columns, which gives us the “grooved” appearance of today’s Devil’s Tower.
Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith before European and early American immigrants reached Wyoming. Today, it is visited by over 400,000 people annually and is a popular spot for technical climbers to try out their skills.
Some people may recognize this edifice as it was used extensively in Steven Spielberg’s film “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”, as the location where Richard Dreyfuss and others were summoned to by the alien visitors. Karen had believed the rock tower in the film to computer-generated and was amazed to find it was real!
Unless you are a skilled climber getting to the top is not easy so instead, we settled for a more sedate mile-long self-guided tour around the base and the chance to listen to a Park Ranger explain the geology, geography and cultural history of the Tower.
Planning your visit to Devil’s Tower
The Devils Tower is not the easiest place to get to with its location in North Wyoming – it is the sort of place you have to plan to visit. It is around 120 miles northwest of Rapid City Dakota.
|Location:||WY-110, Devils Tower, Wyoming, 82714. |
GPS Coordinates: 44º 35′ 23.95″ N; 104º 41′ 47.88″ W
|Admission:||7 day pass: $25 cars, $20 motorcycle, $15 individuals|
|Hours:||Open 24 hours|
Best time to visit Devil’s Tower
The monument is open year-round. The climate and seasons at Devils Tower echo those in the Black Hills region. Summer days can be hot and dry, although thunderstorms are not uncommon; evenings and early mornings are usually damp and cool. Spring weather is often chilly and rainy, and fall weather is often pleasant but can be cool and often cold at night. Winters are usually cold, but snow and sunlight can combine to create incredible pictures of the landmark.
Traffic patterns at the monument are similar to those of national park areas throughout the West. Expect the highest visitation from June through August, with lower visitation in the shoulder months of April, May, September, and October; the lowest visitation is during winter. Parking is limited in summer.
Where to stay?
1. BELLE FOURCHE RIVER CAMPGROUND
The Belle Fourche River Campground is a 2-loop, 46-site campground with 4 accessible sites and 3 tent-only group sites. Drinking water is available at water spigots and in the restrooms. Large cottonwood trees provide shade. A picnic shelter and tables are available north of the campground. This is a first-come, first-served campground, with no reservations. There is a 14-day limit on occupancy. There are 43 pull-through sites with room for RVs up to 35′. No hookups are available,
2. DEVILS TOWER LODGE
Located 0.7 mi from Devils Tower National Monument, Devils Tower Lodge offers a restaurant, a shared lounge and air-conditioned accommodations with a patio and free WiFi.
There is a private bathroom with a shower and a hairdryer in each unit, along with free toiletries.
An American breakfast is available daily at the bed and breakfast.
Devils Tower Lodge offers a terrace.
3. SAWIN’ LOGS INN
Located in Devils Tower and with Devils Tower National Monument reachable within 7.5 mi, Sawin’ Logs Inn features a shared lounge, rooms, free WiFi throughout the property and a garden.
At the inn, all rooms are fitted with a patio. At Sawin’ Logs Inn, rooms are fitted with air conditioning and a private bathroom.
The accommodations offer a sun terrace.