Devils Tower
Devils Tower National Monument

Devil's Tower, WY

July 11, 2006

Wandering through the Northeast corner of Wyoming is an impressive ride. There is one point in particular that will catch your eye, literally.  Rising some 1200 feet above the Belle Fourche River. This massive rock formation can be seen dozens of miles away. Its deeply furrowed walls have lent to many an Indian tale on its creation.  Geologically, the process began about 50 million years ago.  Magma was injected into layers of sedimentary rock, forming the Tower one and a half miles below the earth's surface.  It has since taken millions of years to erode away the surrounding sedimentary rock to expose the Tower we see today.Devils Tower from the access road Devils Tower is composed of symmetrical columns made of phonolite which are the tallest and widest in the world.  They can reach 600 feet long and a width of up to 20 feet.  They can be anywhere from 4 to 7 sided.  Large sections sometimes break off and can be found on the ground during a walk around the Tower.  There is a path, which is partially paved that travels around the base of the tower.  It took us about 2 hours to THE SIDE OF DEVILS TOWER walk all the way around. This monolith is a climbing Mecca.  Challengers come from all over the world to scale these crevice-laden walls. The acoustics are such that anything said on the heights echoes down the sides and is easily heard by those walking around below.  While we were there, there must have been a half dozen people hanging off the sides in various positions.  There was also a small group on the top. Although always a great attraction, the Tower got a shot in the arm when movie makers decided to use the top as a movie set for "Encounters of the Third Kind". Cameras. lights and all that is required to produce a show, was choppered to the the top.  Each morning and again at night, helicopters were used to ferry the actors, camera men and director to and from the peak.  When the movie was released the image of the "Tower" became nationally recognized and the visitation to this monument jumped dramatically.  The first documented visitors were several members of Captain Reynolds's Yellowstone Expedition who arrived in 1859.  Sixteen years later, Colonel Richard Dodge led a Geological  Survey party to explore the rock and coined the name "Devils Tower".  Congress designated the area a U.S. forest reserve in 1892 and in 1906 Devils Towner became the  nation's first national monument.  Devils Tower, an important landmark for Plains Indian tribes long before the white man reached Wyoming was called Mateo Tepee or Grizzly Bear Lodge, by the Sioux. A number of Indian legends describe the origin of Devils Tower.   Most of them deal with the attack of one or more giant bears.  Sometimes offended and in other legends they were just mean bears.  All I found told of maidens attempting to escape the clutches of such animals.  The basis for these seems to be a need to describe how the furrows occurred in the side of the tower.   One legend tells about seven little girls being chased onto a low rock to escape attacking bears.  Their prayers for help were heeded.  The rock began to grow, carrying 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 the Pleiades. or "Seven sisters".  All in all, this was a fun day.  It takes a while to walk around but I wouldn't have wanted to miss any angle of this most unusual formation.

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