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The Devils Tower, America’s Mysterious and First Ever National Monument

Not only a stunning landmark but a sacred site.

Ann Moises

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  • The Devils Tower is a 867-foot igneous intrusion that juts out of the prairie surrounding the Black Hills.
  • Located in northeastern Wyoming, USA, it is considered sacred by Northern Plains Indians and indigenous people.
  • Colonel Richard Irving Dodge gave its English name in 1875.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt officially declared it a National Monument, and was the very first in the United States.

The Devils Tower is located in the Black Hills in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River.

Since the late 1800s, geologists have studied its origin, and yet, until today, still wonder how it was formed. They say that this 867-foot stunning landmark is made of phonolite porphyry, an igneous rock formed by cooled magma or lava.

Majority of geologist agree, however, that although magma formed the Devils Tower, it was only an igneous intrusion and not a part of a volcano.
Photo: Pattys-photos via Flickr
This means that magma rose from the Earth’s mantle and up between chunks of sedimentary rocks.
Photo: Howie Muzika via Flickr

According to an article by the National Geographic, the tower was not visible for millions of years. Over time, wind and water slowly eroded the surrounding landscape, which was composed of sedimentary rocks, consequently allowing the Devils Tower to emerge.

The surrounding landscape and the tower continue to erode until today, as evidenced by the rubbles and fragments of columns seen at the foot of the monument.
Photo: Pattys-photos via Flickr

Its geology is equally appealing as its history and the ‘sacred narratives‘ surrounding it.

The Devils Tower, also known by several ancient names, is a sacred place to the Northern Plains Indian Tribe. It is most commonly called ‘Mateo Tepee’ or ‘Bear Wigwam’ or ‘Bear Lodge’ because many bears used to inhabit the region in the old days.

It was Colonel Richard Irving Dodge who gave its English name, ‘the Devils Tower’ in 1875. He led a scientific expedition in the region to confirm claims of gold.

Overwhelmed by the rock formation’s natural beauty, Colonel Dodge described it as ‘one of the most remarkable peaks on this, or any country.’
Photo: Pattys-photos via Flickr

He recorded its name as such, also writing that the Natives called it ‘The Bad God’s Tower.’ The Natives, however, have petitioned to change its name to ‘Bear Lodge,’ as they find its current name offensive.

On September 24,1906, President Theodore Roosevelt officially declared it a United States National Monument, making it also the very first in the country.
Photo: Andrea Moscato via Flickr

The Devils Tower is a famous rock climbing spot. Enthusiasts use the parallel cracks to move their way to the top. Approximately 6,000 rock climbers visit the site yearly. However, to pave way for Native American ceremonies, the site is closed every June.

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