Devils Tower, the 1st National Monument | Black Hills Travel Blog

Devils Tower, the 1st National Monument

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Devils tower

One of the favorite sightseeing trips I’ve had since moving to the Black Hills was visiting Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. I’ve you’ve never been there, you should probably be jealous. The site is amazing.

Don’t be surprised if you have a hard time taking your eyes off the tower once it comes into view. Devils Tower is 867 feet from the base to its summit and has a circumference of nearly one mile. The top measures about the length of a football field.

Devils Tower attracts some 4,000 climbers hoping to overcome the challenge of reaching its summit each year.  The tower consists of a type of rock called Phonolite porphyry, very similar to granite.  The first known successful climber was local rancher William Rogers with the help of Willard Ripley. The two men staked a 350 foot wooden ladder to a crack in the monument, which allowed Rogers to reach the summit in 1893.

In 1941, Devils Tower became the site of a publicity stunt when professional parachutist George Hopkins parachuted onto its summit.  He hadn’t planned his descent very well and found himself stuck there for six days until skilled climbers were able to safely guide him down. I wonder if he saw any of the occasional chipmunks or snakes that live up there.

Devils Tower holds a very importance cultural significance as well.  The National Park Service states that 20 Native American tribes have a cultural affiliation with the tower. The Arapaho, Cheyenne, Crow, Kiowa and Sioux all have legends consisting of a bear being a part of the tower’s creation, its claws scratching the tower’s sides. Take a look at the First Stories. This is why the tower is also referred to with names like Bears Tipi, Bears Lodge or Bear Peak (It’s believed the ‘Devil’s Tower’ originated when Colonel Dodge’s interpreter incorrectly translated the name). The tower is still very sacred to the Native American culture. June has a voluntary climbing closure, as many ceremonies are held this month.

With all of the towers beauty, history and cultural importance, it’s no wonder President Theodore Roosevelt made it the first national monument in 1906. Hopefully, you’ll have the chance to visit Devils Tower, but remember to treat the sacred area with respect. For more info, take a look at the National Park Service Website.

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About the Author

Heather is originally from De Smet, South Dakota, where she spent her time giving Laura Ingalls Wilder tours until she moved across the state to the Black Hills area to attend college. She is a recent graduate of Black Hills University, where she received a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in Public Relations and Spanish. On two different occasions Heather has fed her love of travel as an exchange student: a summer in Japan at age 17, and semester in Mexico in spring of 2008. Traveling and sightseeing are things she plans to keep on her agenda, and she's currently working on applying to graduate school. Heather has loved living in the area the past five years. When not working, she is usually spending time with her friends or reading.

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