Devils Tower is located in the northeastern part of the state of Wyoming. The tower is visible and protrudes high above the surrounding landscape, looking out of place and intimidating. The sides of the tower are rock, and the appearance of the rock looks like deep scratches. This Tower is what is called an igneous intrusion, which is caused by magma and erosion. The Devils Tower was believed to be surrounded by rock and land created by this magma, and at the same height as the tower, which stands at almost 900 feet from the base to the top. The summit is about the size of a football field. When the softer land around the Tower eroded and fell away over millions of years, creating and leaving the only thing left behind the Devils Tower.
Where are the Accommodations around Devils Tower?
Devils Tower is a National Monument in Wyoming. Guided presentations and talks are interesting and provided to visitors by the park. The accommodations within the park are limited. There is a campground, and a few minutes away are a restaurant and bed and breakfast. The closest towns and cities are approximately 40 miles away and are Sundance, Hulett, and Moorcroft. Here you will find more sleeping and dining accommodations for your convenience.
Folklore Surrounding Devils Tower
Native Americans had ties to Devils Tower long before others arrived, and they consider it a sacred place, even to this day. Several times, they have tried to petition to get the name of the Tower changed to Bear Lodge. Tribes have their names for the Tower, such as Bear Lodge, Bear’s Lair, and Bear’s House. Why are all their references to bears for a rock tower? Well, it all has to do with their folklore.
Girls Saved from a Bear
One of the folklore stories that the Native Americans of the area tell is that several young girls were out playing when some giant bears discovered them and began chasing them trying catch and eat the girls. The girls climbed on top of a big rock and prayed to the Great Spirit to please help them. The rock rose from the ground towards the sky, as the bears tried desperately to climb it, leaving large claw marks on the side. When the tower reached the sky, the girls became a star constellation, known as the Pleiades, which in astronomy, is known as a cluster of stars.
Two Boys and A Bear
Another version of Native American folklore for the Devils Tower is about two young boys. Two boys were out and about when a giant bear is known as Mato, with claws the size of trees began pursuing the boys, hoping to eat them as its next meal. The boys prayed for help, and the rock grew towards the sky with the two boys safely on top of it. Mato tried to get at the boys, leaving scratch marks all over the Tower, but it was in vain. An eagle came and rescued the boys off the top of the tower and back home.
The Buffalo Skull
This folklore has less to do with the name and more as an explanation as to how a buffalo skull came to be on top of the Tower, even before no one had ever climbed it. It is said that a Native American decided to sleep at the base, and near his camp was a buffalo skull. When the man awoke, he discovered that he and the skull had been transported to the top by a spiritual force. For nearly two days and with no food and water the man prayed to be let down. When he awoke the next time, he was back at the base of Devils Tower, but the skull remained at the summit.
Devils Tower got its given name by men on one of the first expeditions. One is an interpreter, had misinterpreted the name and had called it “Bad God’s Tower” by accident, which was later changed to the Devils Tower.
Climbing is allowed on the Devils Tower, and many climbers come each year to tempt their fate at reaching the summit. Some climbers use ropes, gear, and harnesses, and many use just their muscles to climb the steep sides. Two climbers can make it in about five hours, and then it takes about 2 hours to rappel back down if you are using gear. Camping is prohibited at the top, so prepare yourself for a challenge because you must come back down. The record-breaking climb that still holds is eighteen minutes to the top, in the 1980’s by a Todd Skinner from Wyoming. Fatalities have occurred in trying to master the Devils Tower. Only five have taken place since 1937, and three were the result of trying to rappel back down. The Tower is also considered sacred to the Native Americans, and many protest the climbing of the Tower as it may act as a desecration to the Tower. To respect their wishes and offer good faith, there is a Voluntary Climbing Closure, usually held every June. This is when the park asks climbers to stay off the rock for the entire month, allowing many Native Americans to hold their sacred ceremonies that month in peace.
A Sight to Behold
Seeing the massive rock tower among the rest of the landscape is awe-inspiring, and creates a sense of wonderment on how something that tall and different was built. Stan from afar and take in its power, or hike around the perimeter trail which is about a mile long at the base and stare up in shock at this wonder. Trying climbing up Mato’s or other bears giant scratch marks on the Tower’s sides and relive the folklore that surrounds the Devils Tower.