A Wyoming To Do List: Devils Tower National Monument
Think about the 1978 movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind with its classic, five-note…da, da, da…dah…da and you’ll have an “aha” moment. That was Devils Tower, proclaimed America’s first National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. Devils Tower rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River and is considered a sacred spot for the Northern Plains Indians, a place for prayer and renewal.
Devils Tower is actually the core of a volcano caused by an upheaval 60 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains were formed. This rock formation became exposed when millions of years of erosion and weather stripped away the softer rock layers, creating Devils Tower. FYI: The rocks and boulders around the base have fallen from the sides. There is a good chance that I would spend my time nervously looking up for falling rocks. Other than just gawking in amazement, there are quite a few activities around Devils Tower.
– You may be surprised to find out that Technical rock climbing and scrambling above the boulder field is allowed on the monument. However, you must register before attempting this, and check in after the climb. A funny event occured in 1941 when a parachutist landed on top of Devils Tower without thinking about how he was going to get off! The National Park Service pondered over how to get him down for six days until a mountain climber along with his party of seven others climbed to the summit to rescue the stunt man and make a safe descent.
– There are 12.1km/8 miles of Hiking trails through Devils Tower National Monument including a popular 2km/1.3 mile paved Tower Trail that circles Devils Tower itself. Other longer trails wind through the forests and meadows in the monument.
– The 1,347 acre park is covered with pine forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are seen.
– The 50-site Devils Tower Campground is situated on the Belle Fourche River and operates on a first come, first served basis. Sites can accomodate tents or RVs up to 35 feet in length. Hookups, showers, and dump station are NOT available but drinking water and restroom facilities are. My “teen princess” granddaughter, Sarah had a chance to camp within alien-spotting distance of this rock formation located in northeastern Wyoming on a summer camp trip through the National Parks of America and Canada.
– Make your first stop the Devils Tower Visitor Center for ranger information about climbing, trail conditions and current park activities.
While you’re in northeastern Wyoming, Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota is only 2-1/2 hours from Devils Tower National Monument. Stop to see the faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lincoln carved in the granite core of the Black Hills like Sarah, her friends and millions of other visitors.
Have you ever heard of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally? Tens of thousands of motorcyclists descent on Sturgis, South Dakota, about 80 miles from Devils Tower in August and many of them visit Devils Tower during the rally. Plan your visit to watch, or avoid, Devils Tower National Monument at that time. I’d personally like a chance to visit during this “happening” and clamber around the boulders, waiting for the friendly aliens. Beam me up, Scotty…