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Devils Tower
Devils Tower.

The Devils Tower, an extraordinary mass of igneous rock, is one of the most conspicuous features in the Bear Lodge section of the Black Hills region of Wyoming. The tower rises 600 feet above a rounded ridge of sedimentary rocks, which itself rises 600 feet above the Belle Fourche River. Its sides are fluted by great columns which stand nearly perpendicular except near the top, where they round in, and near the base, where they flare out. The base emerges into a talus of broken columns lying on a platform of buff sandstone. The whole presents a never-to-be-forgotten spectacle.

The great columns composing the tower are mostly pentagonal in shape but some are four or six sided. Each column is about 6 feet in diameter, and the whole bunched together like a bundle of matches. In places several columns unite in their upper portion to form a large fluted column. In the lower quarter or third of the tower the columns bend outward and merge rapidly into massive rock which toward the base shows little trace of columnar structure. This structure is due to jointing that develops in igneous rocks as they cool. The diameter at the base of the tower is about 1,700 feet.

The Devils Tower was useful to the aborigines as a landmark from which to direct their courses across the plains. The Indian legend of its origin has it that one day three Sioux maidens while out gathering wild flowers were beset by three bears. The maidens took refuge upon a large rock, which the bears were also able to climb because they had long sharp claws. The gods, seeing the maidens about to be devoured, caused the rock to grow up out of the ground. As the rock grew the maidens climbed, but the bears followed. At last, becoming exhausted, the bears could climb no farther and fell to their death on the rocks below. The maidens then took the flowers they had gathered and made them into a rope with which they safely lowered themselves to the ground below. The columnar structure is supposed to have been caused by the marks of the bears' claws. The Indians also say that during thunderstorms the Thunder God beat his mighty drum on the top of the tower, thus causing thunder.

The white pioneers of civilization later on used the tower as a landmark in their exploration of the great Northwest. Still later the military leaders in the Sioux and Crow Indian country during the Indian wars of the last century directed their marches by the aid of this ever-present tower, for it is visible in some directions for nearly a hundred miles.

The area including the tower, 1,152.91 acres in extent, was made a national monument by presidential proclamation dated September 24, 1906.

The Devils Tower is reached by a side trip of 7 miles from the Custer Battlefield Highway and Black and Yellow Trail, two signed highways, which follow practically the same route through northeastern Wyoming. The former is a direct route to Glacier National Park, the latter to Yellowstone National Park. Moorcroft, 35 miles distant, on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, is the nearest railroad point. The nearest settlement is Carlile. A fine camp ground, shelter cabin, and pure spring water are provided at the monument for the tourist. Inquiry regarding the road approach to the monument should be made by the tourist in near-by towns.

Access to the tower at all times has been made possible through the construction by the National Park Service of a bridge across the Belle Fourche River.

John M. Thorn, of Hulett, Wyo., is custodian of the monument.


Last Modified: Thurs, Oct 19 2000 10:00:00 pm PDT

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