• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Hiking Devil’s Tower, Wyoming’s first National monument

Hiking Devil’s Tower, Wyoming’s first National monument

Devil’s Tower, a huge rock rising up dramatically from the flat plains of northeastern Wyoming, has long been a source of wonder and fascination. This towering rock structure, reaching a height of 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, is composed of striking hexagonal columns, making it a unique and awe-inspiring sight.

The origins of Devil’s Tower date back approximately 50 million years ago, to a time when molten rock, or magma, intruded into layers of sedimentary rock beneath the Earth’s surface. As the magma slowly cooled and solidified, it formed the distinctive columnar basalt structure that we see today. Over millions of years, erosion gradually stripped away the surrounding sedimentary rock, exposing the hardened magma core and revealing the towering monument that we know as Devil’s Tower.

Beyond its geological significance, Devil’s Tower holds deep spiritual and cultural importance for Native American tribes, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa. Known by various indigenous names such as “Bear Lodge” or “Bear’s Tipi,” the tower is considered a sacred site associated with cultural ceremonies, vision quests, and ancient legends.

According to Native American folklore, the formation of Devil’s Tower is linked to a legendary tale involving a giant bear and a group of young Native American boys. As the story goes, a massive bear pursued the boys to the summit of the tower, prompting them to pray for divine intervention. In response, the Great Spirit caused the earth to rise beneath them, lifting them to safety and leaving behind the claw marks of the bear etched into the rock.

In 1906, Devil’s Tower gained national recognition when President Theodore Roosevelt designated it as the first national monument in the United States. Managed by the National Park Service, the monument encompasses over 1,300 acres of protected land, providing visitors with opportunities for recreation, exploration, and cultural enrichment.

The first person to reach the top was a Wyoming rancher named Williams Rogers in 1893. The summit covers more than an acre and features a mix of rocky terrain and grassy patches. Climbers usually go in pairs and can typically reach the top in about six hours. However, keep in mind that overnight stays are not permitted, so climbers must descend the tower after reaching the summit.

Things to note before visiting Devil’s Tower

Register before climbing

Before embarking on your climb, make sure to register at the climbing kiosk located at the head of the Tower Trail (visitor center parking area). Registration is a legal requirement for all climbers, and failure to obtain a permit may result in citation and fines.

Pets policy

Pets are not allowed on the Tower or its trails. They are permitted only in developed areas, so plan accordingly if you’re bringing your pets along.

Gear management

It is important not to leave any gear on the Tower, including ropes, cams, stoppers, etc. Take everything back with you when you descend, and avoid littering or leaving any trace behind.

No camping on the tower

Camping or bivouacking on the Tower itself is strictly prohibited. Make arrangements to camp in the designated campground instead.

Weather considerations

Wyoming’s weather can be unpredictable, with hot summers and cold winters. Be prepared for varying weather conditions and dress accordingly. Bring appropriate gear and clothing to ensure your comfort and safety during your climb.

Wear climbing helmets

Climbing helmets are strongly recommended due to the risk of rock falls. Be vigilant and report any significant hazards to a ranger in the climbing office or visitor center.

Visitor center resources

Take advantage of the resources available at the visitor center, including exhibits, maps, and ranger-led programs. These resources can enhance your understanding of the monument’s geology, history, and cultural significance.

Cultural sensitivity

When exploring Devil’s Tower, be mindful of cultural sensitivities and avoid disturbing cultural artifacts or sacred sites. Show respect for the monument’s Native American heritage and traditions.

Respect for Native American heritage

Devil’s Tower holds deep spiritual significance for Native American tribes. Approach the monument with reverence and respect for its cultural heritage, and be mindful of its sacred significance to indigenous communities.opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the monument’s cultural significance.

Enjoy the experience

Above all, visitors to Devil’s Tower should take the time to appreciate the awe-inspiring beauty and spiritual significance of this iconic landmark. Whether hiking its trails, climbing its cliffs, or simply taking in the panoramic views, Devil’s Tower offers a memorable experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.