Harsh winters, volcanic activity, and difficult access kept the Devils Postpile area relatively insulated from the changes occurring in more populated areas to the east and west. Even today, the valley's meadows, forests, streams, and volcanic rocks appear little altered by the hands of people. But by viewing the Devils Postpile area as a place defined by the relative absence of human history, we risk overlooking its rich human history. People have been present here for thousands of years, making it as much a cultural landscape as a natural one.
American Indians who crossed the crest near Devils Postpile to gather resources and trade, regarded the pillars as lumber that had become rock. In the late 1800s, sheepherders and miners entered the area to use the natural resources for their livelihoods and associated the outcrop with sinister forces, calling it "the Devil's Woodpile." During the twentieth century, scientists and conservationists surveyed the region and proclaimed the scenic and scientific significance of the Devils Postpile formation and Rainbow Falls. These efforts led to the area's establishment as a national monument in 1911. Throughout this time the monument has grown in interest for its tourism and recreation opportunities. The human history of Devils Postpile can deepen our appreciation for the area by revealing how different groups of people have valued and engaged with the High Sierra environment over time.