Rising 1,267’ above the Belle Fourche River, the mythology surrounding Devils Tower, the country’s first national monument, is as grand as the formation itself. According to Kiowa and Lakota tribe legend, seven young girls were playing outside when they spotted a sloth of large bears. Terrified, the girls ran and climbed on top of a large rock where they fell to their knees in prayer, asking the Great Spirit to save them. The Great Spirit took mercy and grew the rock high into the heavens. The bears furiously climbed and pawed up the rock after their prey, scratching everlasting claw marks deep into the rock, but it was too steep. Eventually, the rock took the girls all the way into the sky, where they became the seven stars of Pleidas, and their sanctuary rock remained as a towering reminder of the Great Spirit’s power.
Given the great debate about Devils Tower’s origins within the geological community, this legend seems plausible. Scientists agree that Devils Tower was formed by the intrusion of igneous material, but the process that took place has never been agreed upon. Among other theories, some geologists speculate that it’s a volcanic plug, while others argue that it could be an eroded remnant of a laccolith (a mushroom-shaped mass of igneous of rock that intrudes layers of sedimentary rocks but does not reach the surface).
Its significance has been observed throughout history, and in 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devils Tower America’s first national monument. It has been a Western vacation Mecca ever since, and you’ll never forget the first time you see it from your car window. Up close, it’s even better, and it’s all just 60 miles east of Gillette.
The park is open every day outside of Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s spectacular in any season. You can choose to explore at your pace and hike the eight miles of trails, or ranger-guided tours are available for some expert insight into the area’s wildflowers and animals. Don’t leave before the sun goes down. When you’re experiencing the park beneath the Wyoming stars at one of the park’s special night viewing events, the Native American explanation of the land and Pleidas makes perfect sense. You’ll feel nature’s magic at work.
Learn about hours, tours and more at https://devilstowercountry.com/.