Rising out of the Wyoming prairie lands that surround the Black Hills and towering over the Ponderosa Pines is Devils Tower. Standing 867 feet and having a circumference of 1.3 miles the Tower is mystery. While scientists agree it was formed by an igneous intrusion others believe it is the neck of an extinct volcano. Still others believe it is an eroded remnant of a laccolith.
The Indian tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota believe the Tower was formed by the Great Spirit. As their legend was told, some girls went out to play and were chased by several giant bears. To escape the bears, the girls climbed up on a rock, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. The Great Spirit heard them and made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears tried climbing the rock but it was too steep and all they did was leave deep claw marks in the sides of the rock. It is said that when the girls reached the heavens they were turned into the star constellation Pleades which we most of us know as the Seven Sisters.
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Devils Tower is known throughout the world for its unique and challenging climbing experience. The hundreds of parallel cracks make it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America. Today approximately 4000 climbers ascend Devils Tower annually. The first to climb the Tower were ranchers, William Rogers and Willard Ripley, who reached the summit on July 4, 1893. They constructed a ladder of wooden pegs that were driven into the cracks of the rock’s face. Apparently a few of these wooden pegs still exist and can be seen when hiking along the Tower Trail.
If you are a climber and planning a trip to Devils Tower keep in mind that during June many Indian tribes hold ceremonies around the Tower. As a result there is a voluntary climbing ban during the month of June. It is estimated that 85% of climbers honor the ban.
Tall in stature, rich in history, ascended by many — Devils Tower is one of nature’s masterpieces.