Legends Surrounding Devils Tower – America’s First National Monument

Legends Surrounding Devils Tower – America’s First National Monument
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Legends Surrounding Devils Tower – America’s First National Monument

This is the first proclaimed United States National Monument and is wrapped in stories, legends, and mysteries.

A monolithic igneous or volcanic tower is located in the Black Hills on the so-called Devils ‘ tower, near Hulett, Sundance in the Crook County, on the Belle Fourche River, north-east of Wyoming.

The mountain stands at 1,558 m above sea level and rises dramatically 386 m above the surrounding terrain. The mysterious natural wonder emerges as the first proclaimed National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, established on 24 September 1906.

The breathtaking landscape surrounding the Devil’s Tower consists mainly of sedimentary rocks. The oldest rocks visible at the National Monument were located in a shallow sea during the Middle or Late Triassic period, 225 to 195 million years ago.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA.
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA.

The first known ascent to the Devil’s Tower was made in 1893 by William Rogers and Willard Ripley.

They found a narrow vertical crack that opened in the wall from the ground to the top. They used wooden planks to build a staircase. The staircase could be used until 1927, and even today you can see remains of it.

Close-up of the columns
Close-up of the columns

The Devil’s Tower and the Pleiades

According to the legends of the native American tribes of the Kiowa and Sioux Lakhota, in the distant past, young girls went out to play and were seen by giant bears, who began to chase them.

In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed on top of a rock, got on their knees and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them.

Upon hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock grow from the Earth towards heaven so that the bears could not reach the girls.

The bears, in their attempt to climb the rock, which had become too steep to climb, left deep claw marks on the sides.

When the girls reached heaven, they became the constellation of the Pleiades. However, there are other stories and legends about the mysterious rock formation.

A Sioux legend tells that two Sioux boys wandered off far away from their village when another mighty bear, with claws the site of tipi poles started chasing them, wanting to eat them for breakfast.

As the bear approached the boys, and as he was just about the grab them, they prayed to Wakan Tanka— “the sacred” or “the divine,” the Great Spirit—to save them from the bear.

They climbed a rock while the bear was desperately trying to climb on the rock as well and grab the two boys. However, the bear didn’t manage to climb the rock and left huge marks on its side. Mato—as the bear was called—eventually gave up and came to rest in a place now known as Bear Butte.

Wanblee, an eagle, rescued the boys and helped them get off the massive rock, returning them to their village.

In modern times, the Devil’s tower was used in the 1977 movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’

Strangely, just as in many other places in the vicinity, tourists and locals have reported strange lights in the sky just above the enigmatic rock formation.

Some even claim that these lights even come to rest on the summit of the massive rock.


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John Smith has been with Histecho since 2017, A Senior Editor & Writer for Histecho. his work has been featured in outlets such as Scientific American, The Washington Post, NBC News, and Fox News. John grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York.