President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as the first national monument in 1906. But for many Americans, their first view of this strange and mystical rock formation came via Steven Spielberg’s science fiction film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But the monument has a much older cultural history and has been known to Native Americans for hundreds of years as Mateo Tepee or Grizzly Bear Lodge.
According to a legend common among the Kiowa, Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, and Sioux tribes, seven young girls were out playing when they encountered a great bear that began to chase them. When the girls realized they could not outrun the bear, they jumped onto a small rock and prayed to the Great Spirit to help them. The rock then began to grow, higher and higher into the sky. The bear jumped up against the sides of the rock, leaving giant claw marks, but he could not reach the girls. The rock continued to grow up into the sky, where the girls became the seven stars of the Pleiades.
Scientists still debate the exact details on how Devil’s Tower was formed, but they agree that about 65 million years ago, molten rock was forced by the earth’s pressure into existing hard rock formations, which then cooled and formed the tower. Covered by sandstone and shale, erosion over millions of years by wind and water eventually exposed the Tower to its current height of 1,267 feet above the landscape.
Devil's Tower National Monument has obvious appeal to rock climbers, but the park also includes over 1,000 acres of woodlands and grasslands, and is home to a large "town" of black-tailed prairie dogs. Whether you are a hiker, photographer, climber, or UFO watcher, the sight of this amazing rock towering above the surrounding countryside is one that you will never forget.