Founded in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt himself, Devil’s Tower is a geological wonder that has fascinated people for over a century. This vast butte or rather isolated hill with steep vertical sides and a small flat top is several thousand feet high. Due to its shape and size, this towering formation, located in the Bearlodge Ranger District of the Black Hills, Wyoming, is a popular destination for rock climbers and outdoor enthusiasts. So if your next adventure is at the base or the top of this mound, the more you know, the better. In fact, here are ten mind-blowing facts about Devil’s Tower that you probably didn’t know.
ten America’s first national monument
As briefly mentioned, President Theodore Roosevelt decided that Devil’s Tower should be recognized for its cultural, historical, and scientific significance. Adorned with lichens, moss, grass, and abundant thriving wildlife, this geological wonder met the following qualifications for permanent protection by Congress. Thus, this prehistoric formation known as Devil’s Tower became the first national monument of the United States or was declared the first by President Roosevelt. That said, it wasn’t the first time in history that the Devil’s Tower was proclaimed to be of great significance.
9 A sacred site
For centuries, Devil’s Tower has been a sacred site for the rituals and ceremonies of the indigenous peoples of the region. Today, this geological formation is still considered a sacred site for most American tribes, including more than twenty Plains tribes. Many of these tribes still use the Devil’s Tower for various formal occasions, prayer offerings, sweat lodges, vision quests and community gatherings. Thus, visitors should not be surprised by the sight of prayer bundles or sacred cloths that may be tied to various trees near or beside the monument.
8 Hiking trails galore
In addition to all the Devils Tower climbing routes, there are several hiking trails. Plus, there’s pretty much a trail for every type of hiker. For newer or less experienced pioneers, the Amphitheater Circuit is a relatively short trail about 1.5 miles long. If you opt for this pleasant loop, you can easily walk the south side of the Tower and enjoy beautiful views. Alternatively, for avid hikers, the Joyner Ridge Trail is an 8km hike that offers stunning views of the river, surrounding landscape, and more.
seven Camping at Devil’s Tower
Camping at a national monument may seem strange or unheard of, but visitors can certainly do it at Devil’s Tower. The NPS (National Park Service) actually operates a small campground here. In a rather pleasant wooded area with a breathtaking view, campers will find everything they need, including toilets, a dumping station and a water filling station. That said, there are no hookups at this site and only dry camping is allowed. But if you can get past that, then it’s a great place to pitch a tent.
With the surrounding wooded areas, valleys and rivers, it’s not too surprising that a variety of species have claimed Devil’s Tower for themselves. Here, visitors should expect to see everything from white tale deer, mule deer, elk and pronghorn to beavers, squirrels, chipmunks and striped skunks. But that’s not all; adventurers should keep their eyes peeled for mountain lions, grizzly bears, snakes, black bears, coyotes, gray wolves, and more. There are also bullheads, sunfish, perch and spiny softshell turtles in the nearby waters. In addition, visitors to the mound can spot several species of birds that frequent this area.
5 Climbers welcome
Ever since the semi-unsuccessful first ascent by American-German mountaineer Fritz Wiesner, Devil’s Tower has been a popular climbing destination. Although there are more than a few climbing routes located at Devil’s Tower, most annual visitors who come to climb tend to favor the Durrance route. Initially created in 1938, this climbing route has proven itself. However, it should be noted that this famous route is closed to climbers every June out of respect for the various Native American ceremonies that take place there during the summer months.
4 A mound by another name
Shortly after the 1875 expedition led by Colonel Richard, Bear Lodge Butte, as it was widely known, suddenly became the tower of the evil god or devil. The fate of Bear Lodge Butte was sealed forever, thanks to a misinterpretation of Colonel Richard’s trusted interpreter at the time. But long before this momentous expedition, this geological wonder was often referred to as Aloft, Bear Rock, Bear’s Tipi, Bear’s House, Grizzly Lodge and Bear Peak by several local Native American tribes. Other popular names for Devil’s Tower include Gray Horn Butte, Ghost Mountain, and Mythic-Owl Mountain.
3 There is no volcano here
Devil’s Tower was long thought to be an ancient volcano or at least formed by a now dormant volcano. But geologists have always argued that this unique formation is actually an igneous intrusion. Such formation occurs when magma undergoes crystallization, slowly cooling just below the earth’s surface. Over approximately 50 million years, this magma was pushed into sedimentary rock. Now solid rock, the surrounding sediments eventually eroded away, leaving a large gray-colored core that we now know as Devil’s Tower.
2 It’s a lot bigger than it looks
As suggested, the Devil’s Tower is rather tall. Reaching over 5,112 feet above sea level, the tower is definitely no small rock formation, that’s for sure. Since the tower is made up of several columns, many of which vary in size and height, some points of the Devil’s Tower are around 600 feet high and 10 to 20 feet wide. However, from its base upwards, the tower is only 867 feet tall when measured to the top of its peak – not too shabby, is it?
1 A possible tower of death
Despite its name, this tower did not see a large number of deaths. In fact, only six climbing deaths have been recorded since 1937, and three of those six deaths occurred when people descended from the tower. An estimated 5,000 people climb here each year, so it’s safe to say Devil’s Tower is not a tower of death. That said, there have been a few reported incidents where people have been attacked and chased by bears over the years, but it’s unknown how many, if any, have died from wildlife attack.