2021 Temporary Closures
Falcon nesting closure in effect: Rock climbing routes on the southwest face and the southwest edges of Devils Tower summit will be temporarily closed effective immediately to protect nesting Peregrine and Prairie Falcons. The closure is implemented annually to provide the falcons with an undisturbed nesting location during this critical courtship and nest-selection period. The presence of climbers near falcon nests can be distressing to parent birds and disturbance from climbing activities may force falcons to abandon eggs or chicks. The closure is also implemented to protect climbers, as falcons are known to defensively dive in order to protect their nests. Climbers are asked to report any defensive falcon behavior to park staff. The climbing routes affected by the closure are between “Good Holds for Godzilla” and “Accident Victim” (numbers 135 – 182 in the Devils Tower National Monument Climbing Handbook). Route closures will be posted at the climber registration kiosk near the visitor center. Over one hundred climbing routes remain open for climbing.Climbing routes will remain closed until the young falcons fledge and are no longer dependent on the nest location or if the nesting falcons move to another location. Park staff monitor falcon activity and the closure area may be moved, extended, or rescinded depending on nesting and fledgling activity. “The closure of these routes to protect falcons is strictly enforced,” said Resource Program Manager, Russ Cash. “Climbers play a critical role in the success of falcon nesting at Devils Tower. Please report any nests or observed falcon behavior to a park ranger and remember that all climbers must register before beginning an ascent of the Tower.”
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.
Annual June Voluntary Closure
Each year, a voluntary closure is in effect June 1 - 30 to respect American Indian cultural values associated with the Tower site. This closure applies to the entire zone inside of the paved Tower Trail loop and includes climbing, rock scrambling, and hiking. The paved Tower Trail remains open for hiking. Please stay on the trail.
A Balancing Act
The National Park Service (NPS) must balance multiple views and uses of Devils Tower National Monument. The Tower is both a traditional cultural site for indigenous people and a world-famous rock climbing destination. When the monument developed its Climbing Management Plan (CMP) in 1995, a major component was a voluntary closure to all travel inside of the Tower Trail during the month of June.
What is the Voluntary Closure?
NPS asks visitors to refrain from entering the area inside of the paved Tower Trail loop during June. This closure is a personal choice for each visitor; there are no fines or citations given to those who choose to enter the closure area. A “voluntary” closure was agreed upon by a work group which included climbers and tribal representatives.
The summer solstice occurs in June, and is a culturally significant time for many of the American Indian tribes associated with the Tower site. Although not tied directly to cultural ceremonies at the Tower, June was chosen as a compromise in a modern world. Visitors may not see actual ceremonies taking place this month. Regardless, traditional cultural use of the Tower often increases during the summer. Ceremonies are private functions which often require quiet and solitude.
American Indians have regarded the Tower as a sacred site long before climbers found their way to the area. Tribes have expressed concerns about recreational climbing at Devils Tower. Some perceive climbing on the Tower as a desecration to their sacred site. It appears to many American Indians that climbers and hikers do not respect their culture by the very act of climbing on or near the Tower.
Success with Your Support
Although voluntary, this closure has been very successful - resulting in an 80% reduction in the number of climbers during June. NPS advocates this voluntary closure to promote understanding and encourage respect for the cultures of the American Indian tribes associated with the Tower.
Last updated: March 31, 2021