Devils Tower is a national monument in Wyoming which has to be seen to be believed. Seriously. It is a strange geological formation that sticks straight up into the sky 1200 feet from the ground. Theodore Roosevelt thought it was pretty impressive, too, and named it the first national monument in the USA in 1906.
The land around it is relatively flat which makes this formation even more striking (or just plain strange!). The top of Devils Tower is also generally flat. The land at the top is about an acre and a half and home to prairie grass.
Here are seven strange facts about this equally strange geological formation:
- Devils Tower is considered an igneous intrusion in the ground. Magma swelled up through the rock, cooled and then hardened. The igneous columns are held together by gravity. None of the columns have fallen in the last 200 years. The last large column fell about 10,000 years ago.
- Devils Tower is a bad translation of what some Native Americans called the structure. There are many different names from various tribes, such as Bear Mountain, Bear Rock and Tree Rock.
- Native Americans have stories about the creation of the structure. Depending on the version, either two boys (or 7 sisters) got lost and were chased by a giant bear. When the children prayed to the gods, the ground rose up into the sky to protect them from the bear. The bear clawed at the bottom making scratch marks but could not climb the structure. In the 7 sisters version, the girls became the stars that we know as the Big Dipper.
- Think you’ve seen it before? You may have seen it in the Steven Spielberg science fiction movie classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
- A couple of Wyoming ranchers made the first climb of Devils Tower in 1893 using a series of wooden ladders pegged into the rock. A crowd of 500 people came to watch the stunt.
- Devils Tower is fully surrounded by columnar basalt which is the same basalt found at Devils Causeway in Northern Ireland.
- There is a legend that there is a gold mine under the Devils Tower. Although there are gold mines and caves in the area, the igneous nature of the formation makes it unlikely. But who knows?
You can hike along the bottom of Devils Tower on several separate trails. The easiest option is about 1.3 miles and took us around the perimeter in about half an hour. You can also climb the formation itself so long as you are registered with the park service. Slightly insane in my opinion but we did see climbers going up on the day we were there. Apparently 4000 people a year do it. Maybe I should add that to my list of strange facts about Devils Tower?