Devils Tower National Monument was proclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt as America's first national monument in 1906.
It was the first use of the Antiquities Act to protect a natural or cultural resource
from commercial exploitation.
Devil's Tower History
Located in a remote corner of northeast Wyoming, the monument's bizarre stone monolith rises
1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. Known as "Bear Lodge" and other
mysterious names by generations of plains Indians, it was named Devils Tower by
Colonel Richard Dodge in 1875. Later, it became a favorite meeting place for
local settlers, and starting with the first ascent in 1893, a favorite climbers'
challenge for over a century.
Geology of Devils Tower
The tower was originally thought to be the core remnant of an ancient volcano
but is now thought to be an "igneous intrusion". As shown in the diagram at right,
top to bottom, molten magma was forced into layers of sedimentary rocks but remained
underground (top). The magma cooled into columns of igneous rock when the flow became
inactive (middle). The tower became exposed as the adjacent sedimentary rock which is softer
wore away (bottom). (Diagram, courtesy National Park Service.)
Due to its remoteness, the monument is very quiet and unspoiled. The campground
was in a bend of the Belle Fourche River, in a very lush and peaceful setting.
We saw deer in the distance. There is also a large prarie dog town a short distance
from the camp.
Of course, for many people of my generation, Devils Tower will always be
associated with Steven Spielberg's 1977 classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The tower was the locale for the secret rendevous with the alien
spacecraft. When I asked the campground host if he had seen any aliens
lately, he only stared at me blankly. When I reminded him of the movie, he said
he didn't believe in such things. Sad to say, not everyone is a movie fan.