Each year some climbing routes are temporarily closed during the spring and summer to protect falcon nesting sites, and to protect climbers from adult falcons who will defensively dive to protect their young. Protected nesting locations, such as Devils Tower, have been crucial in the recovery of Peregrine Falcons. Falcons experienced sharp declines in North America during the 1960s and 1970s due to widespread use of the insecticide DDT. The insecticide impacted many raptor species by making eggshells very thin, reducing reproduction success. Peregrine falcons were listed as endangered in 1970. Since then, they have made a remarkable recovery and were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1999. Peregrine Falcons that choose to nest on the Tower select ledges that are within the top one-third of the summit. These birds have one brood per year and lay two to five eggs that are incubated for up to thirty-two days. “The falcon parents have been very vigilant this year at ensuring the well-being of their offspring by dive-bombing turkey vultures and teaching the fledglings to hunt ferociously. They are no longer dependent on their nesting area but may still be seen hunting throughout the park until they migrate south,” says Monique Metza, Biological Science Technician at Devils Tower. As a reminder, the entire Monument is a no-fly zone for unmanned aircraft (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including recreation or commerce, because it can disturb wildlife, decrease the likelihood of successful nests, result in park visitor safety concerns, and affect other protected resources. Operating, launching, or landing these devices within the park boundary is prohibited under 36 CFR 1.5.
Devils Tower National Monument wishes to thank the climbing community and all park visitors who have been curious about the falcons, asked questions, provided their sightings, and have adhered to the climbing closure.
Annual Closure for Nesting Falcons
Some routes are temporarily closed each spring in order to protect nesting prairie and peregrine falcons. During this time, nesting activity is monitored by park staff. Routes will be reopened when no nesting activity is observed and/or falcons fledge. Climbing near raptor nests stresses the birds and often leads to chick death or nest abandonment. Defensive raptor behavior is also potentially dangerous for climbers. Please check for route closures when you register to climb - they will be posted on the registration kiosk. Rangers will strictly enforce these closures.
Voluntary June Climbing Closure
Observance of the voluntary June closure helps balance Native American cultural and ceremonial values, with the status of the Tower as a world-class destination for rock climbers.The June voluntary climbing closure was selected as part of the Devils Tower Climbing Management Plan by a working group that included two climber organizations, two Native American organizations, and other agency and local government representatives. During the month of June climbers are strongly encouraged to consider enjoying the many other climbing options available in northeast Wyoming and the Black Hills area of South Dakota.
I don’t see any ceremonies, is it still discouraged to climb?
The voluntary June closure is not tied to the visible presence of affiliated Native American tribes ceremonies at the Tower. These ceremonies occur many days throughout the year, and in various areas throughout the Monument. These ceremonies are spiritual, private, and may not be visible to visitors. Maximizing compliance with the voluntary closure is necessary to achieve balance and foster respect between American Indian cultural values and climber access.
Why is climbing discouraged, but not other recreational activities?
Entering the boulder field, including technical rock climbing, is perceived by some to be in direct conflict with the Tower as a sacred site. One of the key elements of the Climbing Management Plan is balancing the validity of perspectives and uses by affiliated Native American tribes and climbers. The voluntary closure includes all visitors above the Tower loop trail, not just rock climbers.
Last updated: July 8, 2022