“ Spectacular rock formation in the state of Wyoming, USA. „
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Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming
We decided to visit this monument as we had a spare day while we were staying in Spearfish . We drove into Wyoming and straight to Devil's Tower but on the way back we stopped in to Sundance and visited their museum and then went on to Vore Buffalo Jump which I have reviewed as well.
This lump of rock is actually the core of a volcano which has been worn to this shape by years of erosion from the weather and the Belle Fourche river.
THE FIRST NATIONAL MONUMENT
On September 24th 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devils Tower as a national monument. The actual butte and a surrounding 1,152.91 acres was set aside as this amount of land he believed to "be sufficiently large to provide for the proper care and management of the monument".
During early settlement of the area the Area of the Black Hills was 'given' to the Lakota tribes but once gold was found there settles persisted in entering the area to mine. The tribes and these illegal settles fought, the US government tried to get the Lakota to give up their sacred Black Hills but they were naturally reluctant to once again be moved off their land so they refused. By early 1876 there was a full-scale Indian war and following the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June, the Army pursued the 'hostile' tribes relentlessly. In the fall of that year the Indians were compelled to cede the Black Hills and most of their lands in Wyoming to the whites.
By the early 1800s the area was safe for white settlers and towns such as Deadwood, Belle Fourche and Custer grew up almost overnight. With the settlers came the expansion of the railway into the area and as the Tower can be seen from the railroad it is thought that this helped it become a National Monument rather than falling into the hands of private individuals.
AN IMPORTANT SACRED SITE
For years before the white settlers arrived this place was important to the local tribes of the Arapaho, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Shoshone. At the Tower there are signs asking you not to interfere with the sacred offerings around the area. These are items hanging from trees they are small tied bundles of cloths.
The Tribes are not really happy with the name Devil's Tower and in fact all the Tribal names include something to do with a bear and their legends around the tower also involve bears. The Arapaho call Devil's Tower "Bear's Tipi" while the Cheyenne call it "Bear's Lodge," "Bear's House," "Bear's Tipi," and "Bear Peak." The Crow however refer to the rock as "Bear's House" and "Bear's Lair." The Kiowa are a bit different and they call the Tower "Aloft on a Rock" and "Tree Rock." Finally the Lakota refer to it as "Bear Lodge," "Bear Lodge Butte," "Grizzly Bear's Lodge," "Penis Mountain," "Mythic-owl Mountain," "Grey Horn Butte," and "Ghost Mountain."
All these different tribes feel that this area is of great spiritual importance to them. The area of the Black Hills is important for the Lakota as this is their place of creation. One legend speaks of a Lakota band camped in the forest at the foot of Bear Lodge who were attacked by a band of Crow. A huge bear came to their aid and with its help the Lakota were able to defeat the Crow.
The Indian tribes believe that the columns around this hug lump of rock are made by the claws of the giant bear of their legends.
THE LAKOTA LEGEND
Two boys were playing around picking berries and playing a bit more when suddenly they spotted Mato, the bear. This was giant grizzly so huge that the boys would make only a small mouthful for him. He had got a sniff of the boys and he kept coming closer, and the earth trembled as he gathered speed.
The boys ran and ran and the giant bear got closer and closer. The terrified boys called upon Wakan Tanka, the Creator: "Tunkashila, Grandfather, have pity, save us."
The earth shook and began to rise up under the boys. Out of the earth came a cone of rock at least a thousand feet high and the two boys were safely on top of it.
The furious bear clawed at the sides of the rock frantically all around until eventually he gave up and walked off. "You will notice on its sheer sides many, many streaks and gashes running straight up and down, like scratches made by giant claws."
TIMES AND PRICES
Our 'America The Beautiful' National Park card got us in here but if you don't have one then the price is $10 per car. The park is free on specific National holidays but you have to pay extra to camp within the park.
The Monument is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week and no specific dates are mentioned. From 05 September thru 30 September Visitor Center Hours will be 8 AM-5 PM. On Saturday October 1st the Visitor Center will switch to winter hours, 9 AM-4 PM.
RULES IN THE PARK
Throughout the park you are supposed to keep your speed down to 25mph. This is to protect the wildlife.
You are of course not to remove any wildlife, plants or the like from the park. Do not feed the wildlife and pets must be on a lead and only walked in the parking area NOT on the paths or trails.
PRAIRIE DOG TOWN
After entering through the gate we drove through the park towards the rock. On the way we passed an area of flat ground which was home to thousands of prairie dogs. They were just everywhere and so very sweet with their little front legs up begging and looking around a bit like the meerkats. We must have spent about half an hour watching these busy little creatures before driving on to see the rock itself.
These are black tailed prairie dogs and they are a type of burrowing rodent. They are very sociable beasts and lucky for us they are only active during daylight hours. They burrow huge long tunnels which can stretch up to 10 feet down and then 15 long. This Prairie dog town covers about 40 acres.
The Devil's Tower Park is quite some size and along the way you pass a picnic ground and a camp ground. The forests and scenery make a very pleasant drive. Once you arrive at the rock there are quite a few places to park the car. If you are driving one of those huge Winnebagos then you have to park along the road leaving the car park.
There is a large visitor's Centre which has a shop, toilets, some displays and information about the Tower and they also arrange climbs and walks around the area.
There are several marked walks and you can walk right up to the base of the Tower and of course you can climb it if you apply for a permit I believe. We walked around the area and took photos from several different places before heading back through the park to see if we could find the new sculpture.
THE CIRCLE OF SMOKE
This quite recent statue or piece of art work was placed in the park in 2008 and is the work of sculptor Junkyu Muto who is actually Japanese. This sculptor has made three sculptures in an international peace project. One piece is in the Vatican and has been there since 2005. The second is in Bodhi Gaya in India near the Bodhi tree and this third piece was donated to the National Park Service by Mr Muto and the Kazenowa Corporation of Japan.
This piece is said to represent the first puff of smoke from the peace pipe of the Indian tribes. This Circle of Some was carefully placed on a base stone from the Crazy Horse Monument and it is positioned in such a way that you can frame the Devil's Tower within the circle if you sit or stand in the right place.
INTERESTING FACTS AND STORIES
Around 400,000 people visit the park every year and many of those come to climb the rock.
The first official climb was July 4th 1893 and two local cowboys build themselves a ladder of stakes up one side. Their names were Will Rogers and Willard Ripley.
In 1941 a man called George Hopkins parachuted onto the rock. He couldn't get down so food was dropped from above so he could survive until a rescue party could get him down six days later!
One of the fastest climbs of Devils Tower was done in 18 minutes by Todd Skinner in the 1980s. It usually takes 4-6 hours to climb the Tower.
The top of Devils Tower is about the size of a football field and is slightly dome shaped and rocky, with native grasses, cacti, and sagebrush.
Prairie falcons sometimes nest in the cracks of Devils Tower and then the climbing routes near the nest are closed until the young falcons have flown.
Occasionally chipmunks, mice, pack rats, and snakes are found on the top so they must be good climbers too.
The Towers is 856 feet high and rocks and boulders that have broken off from the Tower have been found up to a mile and a quarter away from the Tower.
WOULD I RECOMMEND A VISIT?
Yes indeed if you are near the area then make the effort. You can camp in the park if you have the right equipment or you can go for a day trip like we did. If you want to go for longer hikes then plan you day carefully and take plenty to drink. Read all the warnings and instructions about walking along the trails before you set off. The legends were wonderful I have retold the Lakota one but each tribe has a slightly different legend to explain this lump of rock with interesting column formations up its sides. The prairie dogs alone are worth coming to see as they are so very entertaining in their antics.
Thanks for reading and I hope this has been of some interest. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.