A Closer Look at Devils Tower

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Hi! and Welcome to Devils Tower educational programs!
One of the things that I think is so fantastic about Devils Tower National Monument is for its small size there is so much variety here ecologically speaking, there is the Upland communities, the Ponderosa Pine Forest, the tower itself, the low-land communities, the Riparian areas near the Belle Fourche River, there's just so much variety.
My favorite animals are the ones that are most elusive, the ones that we don't see very much of. They’re a little bit more shy, some of the nocturnal species, Probably. One of my favorites is, of course the mountain lion. Always looking for signs of mountain lion, And it's exciting that we're putting up some trail cameras throughout the park looking for some of those different species that we don't tend to normally see. A lot of times you put up with trail cameras and you see a lot of White-tailed deer but we're excited that we’ve documented fifteen species this year on our trail cameras.
Geologically speaking, this area is really awesome, There is so much to see. Right away when you come to the park, besides seeing the Tower as you come up the highway, you'll probably see the red beds. It's really bright red, the red beds also known as the Spearfish formation. It's really unique in the fact that it dates back to the Triassic period which is older than the oldest dinosaurs. The obvious thing is the Tower and it's made of phonolite porphyry, an igneous rock. It's just awesome to see.
The excitement of Devils Tower, the adventure of Devils Tower is that it's a traditional climbing area. A lot of climbing areas are bolt protected, that's masonry fastening devices we put into the climb, and we create where the path goes by putting the bolts in there And it's great, it's good athleticism. But here, there's something that you connect with on a deeper level. You're climbing these cracks that are millions of years old and the cracks dictate the protection that you have.
The American Indian experience is integral to understanding the cultural importance of Devils Tower. Learning about American Indian history and perspective, helps visitors truly appreciate Devils Tower as a sacred place.
We offer two varieties of educational programs here at Devils Tower, one is when you come to the Tower we have the opportunity to actually show you the Tower and take you on guided hikes, and give you presentations right here on site. The second opportunity is especially for those limited to actually getting here, is coming to your class room, we'll bring the program to your classroom, we'll bring Devils Tower to your classroom! We offer a variety of presentations for you, the teacher, and the students. We can tailor make a presentation to fit your needs. We're really excited about doing that! And even if you're not in school and you happen to be out here, organized groups, we can take you on trail hikes, we can show you the Tower, we can tell you stories...

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4 minutes, 44 seconds

Your outdoor guide to Devils Tower


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There are several things that climbers should know, in order to make the best out of their climbing trip at Devils Tower. As with any place, researching your climbing destination and planning before you get there makes for the best experiences.
This video is going to briefly discuss topics that can better each visitor's experience at Devils Tower.
People have been climbing the Tower before Theodore Roosevelt declared it a national monument.
In 1906, the summit was first gained in 1893 by two ranchers William Rodgers and Willard Ripley who hammered wooden stakes into a crack to produce a ladder. In 1937 Fritz Weissner made the first ascent of the tower using modern climbing technique.
The following year Jack Durrance made the second ascent. Since then two hundred and twenty routes have been established on the tower. Today we see almost 5,000 climber days per year. Climbing and picnic gatherings over the past one hundred and thirty years are only a small part of the human history at the Tower. Archaeological evidence suggests that Native Americans have been coming to the tower for over ten thousand years. Today there are at least 24 tribes that have a cultural connections Devils Tower and traditional ceremonies will take place in the area. The month of June is important because of the summer solstice when many Native American ceremonies take place climbing the tower is considered disrespectful especially during June.
“This is before the tower was even formed the Lakota people were camped near Devils Tower. Some children who were playing they noticed that there were some bears that came, they ran, a voice came and told them just to stay where they were at they were surrounded by the Bears, as they stood there the ground that they were standing on started to rise. The Bears were clawing at the sides to try to get to the children. They were so high and out of reach when it finally stopped then the children were wondering all day we're gonna get back down same voice came and told them that you know well there's gonna be some birds that came and would fly around the tower they would be able to get on the backs and that was how they got back down to the ground. Mato Tipila, and to us it's a sacred place.”
Our climbing management plan and Access Fund strongly promote a voluntary June closure. The closure aims to reduce the number of people entering the inner circle of the tower trail during the month of June. This is a compromise between the Native Americans and the climbing community out of respect for other cultures. I'm sure that the tribe's not only the Lakota tribes but all the tribes who have an interest in Devils Tower with their ceremonial appreciate that very much.
The National Park Service asks that all climbers choose not to climb during the month of June. However, this is at the climbers discretion. The increase of popularity in climbing brings to the foreground the environmental impacts. Visitors can  hear you as well as you hear them so be aware of your noise levels. We ask that all climbers stick to existing trails when approaching the climbs and when on the meadows and summit.  If you pack it in please pack it out! This includes bodily functions. Bags can be purchased at the visitors center. We want all visitors to practice leave no trace ethics. Each year we close a section of the Tower to promote prairie falcon nesting. Devils Tower is part of their habitat so please observe all closures and find out ahead of time if closures are in effect so you are not disappointed when you get here.

Report any wildlife habitats that you come across to a ranger so we can protect both visitors and the wild life. Your safety is your responsibility helmets are highly recommended because nesting birds and chipmunks from above may knock rocks down. Plan ahead and know the expected weather forecast.
The weather can change quickly in your view of the changing weather can be blocked by the tower. Be aware of the temperature and wind changes. Storms here tend to produce violent wind, lightning, downpours, and large hail. Have information about several routes before getting to the tower. There are often many parties lining up to climb the same route. Plan ahead and know the decent route well, including the length of ropes needed, anchor location and the number of repels. You will often take a different route down. There are only five decent routes. Pay close attention because pitches are long and require two ropes to repel. Repel on the column face and not the crack to prevent getting your rope stuck, which is a common problem here. It takes multiple repels so please look for anchors while repelling and watch for the end of your ropes. We want you to climb with us again and again!
It is mandatory that all climbers and people that wish to ascend to the base register beforehand and that they check back in after climbing. Registration allows us to keep accurate statistics for better management. There are two parts of this card that you will fill out. This larger part is completed before hand, take this smaller part with you and return it after climbing. During peak season registration takes place at the climbing office, where you will also find route descriptions for the Tower and other nearby climbing areas. If the office is closed there's a plaza kiosk near the trailhead with the drop box where you can self register. During the winter season registration takes place in either the visitors center or the kiosk. All visitors are responsible for complying with park regulations.
Some of the basic rules in which you should be aware of are as follows: Please do not leave behind any gear or fixed lines. No new bolts without permission. No trundling or route cleaning.  Camp only in designated campgrounds, abide by posted speed limits, smoking is not permitted on any trails, or the tower itself. Pets are not allowed on the trails or at the base. No open alcohol containers except in designated campgrounds and picnic areas.
The park does not have guided tours to the top. There are several guide services that will take new and experienced people climbing. They have all the equipment and are a great resource for inexperienced climbers. There is a list of guides that have commercial use permits in the climbing office. Further information can be found on their websites.
Most accidents happen on repel, stuck ropes are very common here. Please use caution. Rescue is not guaranteed. Please try to leave a favorable impression of climbers in the minds of other visitors. Racking up in the parking lot will draw lots of attention, Stowing gear in a pack, will reduce the endless questions asked by visitors unfamiliar with climbing. Devils Tower is a fantastic place to climb with quality rock and perfect cracks. With your cooperation you can ensure that climbing up the tower will be enjoyed by future generations!

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10 minutes, 29 seconds

Things Every Climber Should Know Before Climbing Devils Tower National Monument


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Here at the Tower, we have two main types of rock, we have the sedimentary rocks that are all around the tower and the rock of the tower itself.
This is our beautiful rock from the tower it’s called Phonolite, Phon-o-lite. A lot of people when they look it they think it looks a lot like granite, and it is kind of a cousin of granite but it doesn’t have any quartz crystals. And to be granite you have to have quartz crystals, all of these shiny white crystals are actually feldspar. In between some you see some tiny black crystals and also a whole bunch of gray area both the black crystal and the gray area are rich in iron and as they rust they give the tower its color
There have been three accepted theories around for quite a while one is called a stock and that would be just a big blob of rock that kind of stopped underground was about the shape the tower is now but somewhat bigger and that would be called as I said a stock
The next theory is that it came up and found a weak layer still well underground and moved out into that layer and kind of blew up until it became a mushroom shaped big hunk of molten rock that geologists call a laccolith.
The third theory is that it came up and then above the tower there would have been a pipe that goes all the way to the surface, and remember the surface at this time could have been as much as a mile and a half above. Up there you would have had eruptions and the big cone and all that kind of stuff, but that is not where the tower was, the tower was down in the plumming, and that would be called a volcanic plug.
A new theory has come out and that involves ground water. The idea is that when the hot molten magma came up it would find water underground, which happens a lot. When this hot molten rock hit that water it formed a huge amount of steam, which exploded a big pipe and a crater on the surface. And then after things calmed down a bit the rest of that molten rock came up from below, up that pipe that was made weak by the explosion, and cooled in the bottom of the crater, so in this theory the rock would be on the surface right from the beginning, however it would be at the bottom of a big crater, so not at the land surface,
You may have noticed in pictures of the tower that it has columns, how did those columns get created? Well that is part of the cooling process. When you have a big mass of molten rock it starts to cool from the surface and on that surface it will start creating crack pattern, molten rock occupies more space then solid rock does so it has to shrink, and you can imagine that if you have a huge piece of molten rock and it you start to cool it everything starts to shrink from everything else and you will develop a crack pattern.
You may notice that we have a boulder field, and that is from pieces of the rock that have fallen off through the millennia, we do lose a couple of boulder each year they tell us, they bring them down when there is no one around to get hurt by them, but the last time a full column has fallen they say is maybe 10,000 years ago.

A lot of folks want to know what’s on top?
The top is fairly flat, a little bit domed from the center and through the years it has developed some soil and actually has plant growing up there, grass is the most common thing but you also have things like cactus, sage brush, and goose berries not only do you have plants you also have animals, there is a whole bunch of small rodents like chipmunks, mice, and wood rats. And whenever you have a banquet like that you have something that likes to eat it so we have snakes up there as well, and of course the birds and the bugs.

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5 minutes, 6 seconds

A more in depth look at the Geology of Devils Tower National Monument.


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The American Indian experience is integral to understanding the cultural importance of Devils Tower. Learning about American Indian history and perspective, helps visitors truly appreciate Devils Tower as a sacred place.
“The Lakota people were camped near Devils Tower, some children were playing, they notice that there are some bears that came, they ran,  a voice came and told them just to stay where they were at they were surrounded by the Bears. As they stood there the ground that they were standing on started to rise, the bears were clawing at the sides to try to get to the children. They were so high, and out of reach, and when it finally stopped then the children were wondering how they were gonna get back down. The same voice came and told them that you know well there's gonna be some birds that came and would fly around the Tower. They would be able to get on the backs and that was how they got back down to the ground. Mato Tipila. And to us it's a sacred place.”
1492, you had sixty million. Then by the turn of the century you were down to less than 500. Something wrong with that picture. The only way for the whites (the settlers) to beat Indians, was to totally eradicate their food source and their way of life, and that's what they did. Which is tragic, it's heart breaking. As far as the bison, it's definitely a sign to me, he is American, he is us, he is who we are, because without them we would have been nothing. He was our food source, he was our homes, he was everything. They're majestic.
“We were even threatened in the twenties and thirties that they were gonna send us to jail if we danced. When they made us stop the sun dance, we're the only southern tribe that had the sun dance. Like our Norden brothers do. but the government made threats, made us stop.”
“I had two Chippewa friends, they spoke their language and of course I was their friend, and I was with them when they got caught speaking their native language, and I was punished along with them. They put us in a linen closet. We had bread and water for five days, but we had fun in there, we made our fun. We found an old blanket, and we unraveled the big strings. Made all kinds of new designs. They had a tournament, and we won the tournament, the basketball tournament! But because we were Indians we couldn't get the trophy. They gave it to our leisure.”
“Devils Tower, is the first place any Kiowa goes when they go North. It's a must. From every Kiowa I've ever spoken to. Have you ever been to Devils Tower? Because somehow in our thinking that once you've been there you're really Kiowa, because we had experiences there with the rocks talk to us, and that's the main place we have references to everything there, and when I went with my elders, my  co-elders we made sure that we had prayer there, and just some place you go.. You have to do it in your lifetime. Grizzly Bear Lodge.”
“A lot of our sacred sites, historical sites, have been practically destroyed Respect for these, don't disturb, don't destroy, don't discredit, don't displace. It was I advocate.”
“My biggest fear is that if this is shared with people that after we're gone people aren't going to know what that meant to us. Because they haven't shared the stories with their children.”

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5 minutes, 32 seconds

Devils Tower is associated with many Native American tribes, it has a very interesting history and culture surrounding it.


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Prairie dogs are with groups called coteries. Coteries consist of one to two females and a male with several yearlings. The organization is pretty complex they have something different boroughs that they use for different purposes, and harbor the whole family within. The population of prairie dogs in this area is pretty isolated there are no prairie dogs in this immediate area and so the population here at Devils Tower is really important to conserve the species. We'll find the prairie rattlesnake here, he is pretty prolific here, pretty much the only venomous snake in the black hills is the prairie rattlesnake. But the rattlesnake is not anything to be feared, he's more afraid of you than you are of him, and he will avoid you at all cost. He's not out to get you, he's not going to fall out of a tree on your head, he's not gonna chase you down the trail.
When you visit Devils Tower National Monument the most common animals you're probably going to see for wildlife are deer and turkeys... and raccoons. Deer have pretty interesting personalities you get on you watch them they're so common that we forget to sit down and observe them, and watch and appreciate them for what they are, but if you sit down and be quiet, you can just really enjoy them, they are very graceful, very curious pretty funny as well at times. It's a mix of Western and Eastern species of plants. The best conservation for wildfires we can do is reducing the amount of invasives. Come check out our wild flowers next spring! The top of the tower is about the size of a football field about an acre in size and is relatively flat. It's rocky and dry lot more mesic than the rest of the tower. It's mostly grasses and sagebrush up there. Something really cool about top of tower is that there's Wyoming big sagebrush that grows up on the summit and that's pretty cool because you don't really find Wyoming big sagebrush anywhere else in the rest of Monument. So it's a neat little endemic spot that we have within the Tower itself.
Turkeys that we have here at Devils Tower are of the Southwestern variety. The characteristic of the Southwestern subspecies is the really light color of the tips of their tails you can hear them clucking and chuckling throughout the spring when they're breeding. Bald Eagles come in the winter time and they migrate here and they fish along the Belle Forge River. We have prairie falcons, peregrine falcons, and American kestrels. All these birds can breed at the Tower, we have had both prairie falcon and paragon falcons nest on the monument. The most common raptor you'll probably see is the turkey vulture. They are often seen hovering around the Southwest corner of the Tower.
There are many exotic plant species at Devils Tower and some of the most problematic of those are the ones that are perennial, and those are the ones that come back year after year, these plants are predominately rhizomatous. Which means that they spread through their extensive root systems. One exotic plant that we have here that is extremely problematic is leafy spurge. And leafy spurge was introduced as an ornamental plant, back in the 1800's people thought it was beautiful and they planted it and now it is spread. It's extremely invasive it out-competes native plants and that's why it's a problem.

Park visitors can help us to control the spread of invasive plants by looking for seeds that may have attached themselves to their clothes or their backpacks instead of picking those seeds off and on tossing them on ground, Put those in the nearest trash receptacle. As a park visitor you can just be aware what seeds are picking up and spread them to other places, you can certainly do your part.
“I help reduce the amount of invasive plants that we have here at the Tower, I do a lot of herbicides spraying have bio controls which is using other insects to control the plants. We also do manual control which involves seed, head clipping, and pulling of invasives. So this is common mullein this plant can produce up to 200,000 seeds in the environment. One plant can do that. And also the seeds can remain viable in the soil for over a hundred years. So it's really important that we try to collect all of the seed heads.”
Prescribed fire is a necessary resource management tool. As people began to settle the western United States, we suppressed fire but in the process because we suppressed fire, fuels built up on the forest floor and what happens now is that there's lightning strike, sometimes those fires can be extremely catastrophic so one tool that we used to manage this we can set prescribed fires, so that we know exactly when the fires going to happen, we can light it under a more controlled circumstance. Fire releases nitrogen back into the soil, the new regeneration that comes back is green and healthy.
Porcupines are rodents, and we find them throughout the park, But they primarily like trees. They're very good climbers, the North American porcupine is a fantastic climber. They're herbivores, they eat leaves flowers and forbes, in the winter time they'll often eat bark and so you'll see their chew marks on trees kinda low to the ground. Sometimes you'll see those chew marks up high in a tree if there's a place where the porcupine has been able to sit on a branch and access the bark. Then you'll see those chew marks there.
One of things that I think is so fantastic about Devils Tower National Monument is for its small size there's really so much variety here ecologically speaking. There's the upland communities, the ponderosa pine forest, the Tower itself, the lowland communities, the riparian areas near the Belle Fourche river. There's just so much variety.

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7 minutes, 5 seconds

A brief description of the variety of eco-systems, and animal life here at Devils Tower.


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Every year, over 5,000 climbers come to Devils Tower; Devils Tower is seen as one of the premier crack climbing locations in the world. Climbing has a long history at Devils Tower. Starting with William Rogers and Willard Ripley and their stake ladder in 1893.Which they used to summit the Tower on July4th. This event drew spectators from all over Wyoming and South Dakota.
In 1895, Linnie Rogers, William Roger's wife, was the first woman to summit Devils Tower, using her husband's stake ladder. In 1937, Fritz Weissner and his team completed the first non-ladder ascent using modern mountaineering techniques.
In 1938, Jack Durrance pioneered the Durrance route, which is still one of the most popular routes on Devils Tower. In 1941, George Hopkins a daredevil parachutist landed on the Tower and was stranded for six days, Jack Durrance and a team of eight other climbers were able to rescue Hopkins on the sixth day. In 1952, Jan Conn and Jane Showacre completed the first female only summit at Devil's Tower.
Today, Devils Tower continues to draw climbers from around the world. The excitement of Devils Tower, the adventure Devils Tower is traditional climbing are. A lot of climbing areas are bolt protected that's masonry fastening devices we put into the climb. We create where the path goes by putting the bolts in there. It's great, it's good athleticism, but here there's something that you connect with on a deeper level. You're climbing these cracks that are millions of years old and the cracks dictate the protection that you have so might be a little bit run out, or might be gear every few inches, but it makes it unique.
Devils Tower is great for climbing because it's crack central! There's not too many places like this in the world where there's almost 250 cracks to climb within a mile walk, it's all in the same area so you can walk around in a circle and have that many amazing crack climbs available to you.
So I grew up here in Crook County, half hour away from Devils Tower. The first day I climbed this was September 22, 2001. I'll remember, because it kindof changed the direction of my life. I was going to college, had a friend of mine whose dad took people climbing, and said "Hey would you like to join us to go climb behind Mt. Rushmore?" That went good, he said "Let's go climb Devils Tower in a few weeks" Went up with five other people, we were the typical go up the Durrance Route with dragging bags and a bunch of people just congesting everything. But it was done in about eight magical hours, I was also the guy with the T-shirt at the very end that said “I climbed Devils Tower" even before I hit the Tower trail.
When I first climbed Devils Tower, it was in the 80's, and we came here and climbed it, and it was about making it to the summit. In subsequent visits to Devils Tower, I've sought out more difficult routes, and routes that have that characteristic nature of Devils Tower which are the cracks and the stemming.
This place is just special, the unique factor of where it’s located, in the middle of nowhere, along with what type of climbing it represents really long sustained traditional pitches, just puts this in a classic category a place you can get a good climbing experience at all grade levels.
If you're interested in climbing Devils Tower, make the drive out here, visit beautiful Crook County Wyoming, Check in with the Rangers, Register before you go up on the climb so you know where you're at, and they can count how many people are climbing, it's a really key part of it, and then be prepared, it's adventures climbing, its traditional climbing, you'll be placing your gear and skills like this fist cracks, off-wits, are all very much required here. You're not going to get to the top without being able to climb some sort of wide crack, so have the appropriate equipment and protection and make sure that you're well within your ability.
Definitely be prepared, even though it is really accessible from the road, you want to be aware that weather moves in fast, you got to treat it almost like a mountaines weather terrain. Just the nature of where it comes from, sometimes the rock can block that off. The weather is the number one factor Always bring two ropes, one rope is just gonna get you in trouble, and bring as much gear as you have, because different routes require different things and they're long pitches.
In the spring, be sure to check in at the climbing office, to find out which routes are closed due to prairie and peregrine falcon nesting. And remember there's a voluntary climbing closure during the month of June, out of respect to Native Americans who worship here at that time. Please be sure to fill out the registration form, this is important in keeping track of how many climbers we have, and who was on the Tower at the given time. Be sure to look at the back of the card, to confirm the rules and regulations of climbing at Devils Tower
We welcome you to Devils Tower; we look forward to climbing with you.

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6 minutes, 46 seconds

A brief history about climbing Devils Tower.

Last updated: December 2, 2015

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 10
Devils Tower, WY 82714


(307) 467-5283 x635
Devils Tower National Monument Visitor Center Phone Number

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