Friday, July 26, 2013

Devils Tower National Monument


Nicolas and Bryce both had to read The Way to Rainy Mountain, by M. Scott Momaday, for their English Literature class, and the following legend of the Kiowa Indians is included in the book, describing the formation of Devils Tower.

“Eight children were there at play, seven sisters and their brother.  Suddenly the boy was struck dumb; he trembled and began to run upon his hands and feet.  His fingers became claws, and his body was covered with fur.  Directly there was a bear where the boy had been.

Kiowa Legend

The sisters were terrified; they ran, and the bear ran after them.  They came to the stump of a great tree, and the tree spoke to them.  It bade them climb upon it, and as they did so it began to rise into the air.  The bear came to kill them, but they were just beyond its reach.  It reared against the tree and scored the bark all around with its claws.  The seven sisters were borne into the sky, and they became the stars of the Big Dipper.”

It wasn’t one of their favorite novels, so they didn’t get overly excited about the connection, but I thought it was cool!

We did something a little different on our travel day this time . . . after driving about 250 miles from our last campground in Bighorn Canyon, we stopped for the night at the Walmart in Gillette, WY. 


This put us about 60 miles from Devils Tower National Monument.  We got up bright and early (which isn’t difficult when Wally-docking . . . it gets pretty noisy early in the morning!), and Tom and I went out to get coffee and donuts for breakfast.


Breakfast of Champions!


YUM!  This is Nicolas’ & Bryce’s favorite part of staying overnight at Walmart!





We were on the road before 7am . . . plenty of time to reach Devils Tower in time for the Ranger Hike around the Tower Trail at 9am!



We exited I-90, and made our way to Devils Tower.  Since our National Park pass technically only allows one vehicle into the park (apparently at the discretion of whoever is working the gate at the time), we decided to play it safe and find a place to leave the truck & RV outside of the park.  Luckily, the Devils Tower Trading Post had a big parking lot, and they said it was OK for us to park it there for a couple hours.



The 4 of us got in the car, and made our way into the park.  We were still pretty early for the Ranger Hike, so we stopped at the Prairie Dog Village to watch the cute little prairie dogs for awhile.

He's checking us out!

Busy little prairie dog!










We could see Devils Tower in the distance!

On our way to Devils Tower

We made our way to the Visitor Center, and were really glad we had left the truck & RV outside!  RV parking was pretty small, and already filling up!

Waiting for the Ranger Hike

We had time to look around the Visitor Center while we waited for the Ranger (actually an interpretive volunteer, not a ranger) to lead us on our hike.  We could have easily made the hike around the Tower Trail by ourselves, but we thought it would be more interesting to go with a guide. 



We were right!  Mark, our interpretive volunteer, had a wealth of knowledge and personal history regarding Devils Tower, having grown up in the region.  He shared several entertaining stories, as well as the history, geology and other facts about the Tower.





We started our hike, walking through the boulder field at the base of the tower.

Walking through the boulder field

Devils Tower was formed 50 million years ago when molten magma was forced into sedimentary rocks below the surface of the earth.  As it cooled, it contracted and fractured into columns.  Over millions of years, erosion of the sedimentary rock has exposed Devils Tower.

Surrounded by boulders

The boulder field that surrounds Devils Tower are pieces that have broken off the tower.  One theory is that the tower originally had a mushroom-type cap, and that’s where all of the boulders came from.



The Park Service allows visitors to climb on the boulders up to the base of the tower, and I tried to get Nick & Bryce to do a little climbing, but they didn’t really want to.








As we made our way around the west side of the tower, we could see across the entire valley below – it was really beautiful!

The valley beyond Devils Tower











Beautiful view of the valley

Mark shares the history of Devils Tower


The tower is also open to rock climbers, and this side is the most popular route to the top.  As Mark shared with us the history of the very first people to climb the tower, we could see several people making the climb that morning.  Mark told us that in the rock climbing world, it’s actually an easy climb, and good for beginners . . . yeah, right!





We continued our hike around the tower, listening to more of Mark’s stories,  Listening intently

and enjoying views of the tower from several sides!






Towering above the trees


Prayer Pouches


American Indians have always considered this place to be sacred, and they still hold religious ceremonies here.  Throughout the park, we saw trees with prayer cloths and prayer pouches tied in the branches.







Our 1.3 mile hike took about 2 hours with all the stops, and it was definitely worth it . . . we had a great time!

After completing our hike, we went back to the RV and had lunch before getting back on the road to continue our drive to South Dakota.  We don’t often sight-see with the RV, but in this case it was a nice way to break up the day . . . and we still arrived at our next RV Park by 2:30pm!

The remainder of our drive was fairly easy and scenic, through the farm and ranch lands of Wyoming and South Dakota.

Beautiful countryside











We even saw a few Pronghorn on the side of the highway!


We arrived at Heartland RV Resort and Campground, and got set up for our stay here. 


We’re in a great location for exploring the Black Hills, and there’s plenty here to keep us busy for several days!


  1. Nice tour of an interesting National Monument!!!

  2. We are traveling out to South Dakota this October, so I'll be anxiously watching your blog!

  3. see any flying saucers while there? Maybe instead of reading a book, they should have watched a movie. They might have enjoyed it more, watching Richard Dryfess(?) make the tower out of mashed potatoes!!! When I was there a few years ago I saw loads of rock climbers up there. And I think Grandma has a picture of John standing at the same spot at Prairie dog town. I'll find it and some more for you. I'll post them on facebook. keep up the good work, looking forward to seeing you soon. Don Jr.


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