|Devils Tower National Monument|
|IUCN Category III (Natural Monument)|
|Nearest city||Gillette, Wyoming|
|Area||1,346.91 acres (545.1 ha)|
|Established||September 24, 1906|
|Visitors||386,558 (in 2004)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
Devils Tower (Lakota: Mato Tipila, which means “Bear Tower”) is a monolithic igneous intrusion or volcanic neck located in the Black Hills near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises dramatically 1,267 feet (386 m) above the surrounding terrain and the summit is 5,112 feet (1,558 m) above sea level.
Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Monument's boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres (5.45 km²).
Tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith before European and early American immigrants reached Wyoming. Their names for the monolith include: Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear's House (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear's Lodge Butte (Lakota), Bear's Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne), Tree Rock (Kiowa), and Grizzly Bear Lodge (Lakota).
The name Devils Tower probably originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge when his interpreter misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God's Tower. This was later shortened to Devils Tower. 
In 2005, a proposal to recognize these ties through the additional designation of the monolith as Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark met with opposition from Rep. Barbara Cubin, arguing that a "name change will harm the tourist trade and bring economic hardship to area communities" .
Most of the landscape surrounding Devils Tower is composed of sedimentary rocks.
The oldest rocks visible in Devils Tower National Monument were laid down in a shallow sea during the Triassic period, 225 to 195 million years ago. This dark red sandstone and maroon siltstone, interbedded with shale, can be seen along the Belle Fourche River. Oxidation of iron minerals causes the redness of the rocks. This rock layer is known as the Spearfish formation.
Created as sea levels and climates repeatedly changed, gray-green shales (deposited in low-oxygen environments such as marshes) were interbedded with fine-grained sandstones, limestones, and sometimes thin beds of red mudstone. This composition, called the Stockade Beaver member, is part of the Sundance formation. The Hulett Sandstone member, also part of the Sundance formation, is composed of yellow fine-grained sandstone. Resistant to weathering, it forms the nearly vertical cliffs which encircle the Tower itself.
About 65 million years ago, during the Tertiary period, the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills were uplifted. Molten magma rose through the crust, intruding into the already existing sedimentary rock layers.
Geologists agree that Devils Tower was formed by the intrusion of igneous material. What they cannot agree upon is how, exactly, that process took place. Geologists Carpenter and Russell studied Devils Tower in the late 1800s and came to the conclusion that the Tower was indeed formed by an igneous intrusion. Later geologists searched for further explanations. Several geologists believe the molten rock comprising the Tower might not have surfaced; other researchers are convinced the tower is all that remains of what once was a large explosive volcano.
In 1907, scientists Darton and O'Hara decided that Devils Tower must be an eroded remnant of a laccolith. A laccolith is a large mass of igneous rock which is intruded through sedimentary rock beds but does not actually reach the surface, producing a rounded bulge in the sedimentary layers above. This theory was quite popular in the early 1900s since numerous studies had earlier been done on a number of laccoliths in the Southwest.
Other theories have suggested that Devils Tower is a volcanic plug or that it is the neck of an extinct volcano. Presumably, if Devils Tower was a volcanic plug, any volcanics created by it — volcanic ash, lava flows, volcanic debris — would have been eroded away long ago. Some pyroclastic material of the same age as Devils Tower has been identified elsewhere in Wyoming.
Geologists agree that the igneous material intruded and then cooled as phonolite porphyry, a light to dark-gray or greenish-gray igneous trachyte rock with conspicuous crystals of white feldspar. As the lava cooled, hexagonal (and sometimes 4-, 5-, and 7-sided) columns formed. As the rock continued to cool, the vertical columns shrank horizontally in volume and cracks began to occur at 120 degree angles, generally forming compact 6-sided columns. (See also Devils Postpile National Monument and Giant's Causeway.)
Until erosion began its relentless work, Devils Tower was not visible above the overlying sedimentary rocks. But the forces of erosion, particularly that of water, began to wear away the sandstones and shales. The much harder igneous rock survived the onslaught of erosional forces, and the gray columns of Devils Tower began to appear above the surrounding landscape.
As rain and snow continue to erode the sedimentary rocks surrounding the Tower's base, and the Belle Fourche River carries away the debris, more of Devils Tower will be exposed. But at the same time, the Tower itself is slowly being eroded: cracks that form the columns are subject to water and ice, becoming larger. Rocks are continually breaking off and falling from the steep walls, and occasionally entire columns fall. Piles of scree — broken columns, boulders, small rocks, and stones — lie at the base of the tower, indicating that it once was larger than it is today.
Fur trappers may have visited Devils Tower, but they left no written evidence of having done so. The first documented visitors were several members of Captain W. F. Raynold's Yellowstone Expedition who arrived in 1859. Sixteen years later, Colonel Richard I. Dodge led a U.S. Geological Survey party to the massive rock formation and coined the name Devils Tower. Recognizing its unique characteristics, Congress designated the area a U.S. forest reserve in 1892 and in 1906 Devils Tower became the nation's first national monument. All information signs and references use the name "Devils Tower".
If Colonel Dodge intended the name "Devils Tower" to refer to a single devil, then proper grammar would indicate that the monument be called "Devil's Tower". It has been said that the apostrophe was omitted due to a clerical error on early governmental papers, and the version without the apostrophe became its legal, and therefore official, name. On the other hand, use of the plural "devils" may have been intended, either by Colonel Dodge or by the government agencies involved in establishing the monument; in which case there is no grammatical error in the name.
On July 4, 1893, local rancher William Rogers became the first person to complete the climb after constructing a ladder of wooden pegs driven into cracks in the rock face. Technical rock climbing techniques were first used to ascend the Tower in 1937 when Fritz Wiessner reached the summit with a small party from the American Alpine Club. Today hundreds of climbers scale the sheer rock walls each summer; each lava column defines its own climbing routes, whose difficulties range from easy to some of the hardest in the world. On some routes the gap between columns is just narrow enough to bridge with stretched-out legs, so the climber ascends doing "the splits" all the way. All climbers must register with a park ranger before and after attempting a climb.
American Indian legends tell of six Sioux girls who were picking flowers when they were chased by bears. Feeling sorry for them, the Great Spirit raised the ground beneath the girls. The bears tried to climb the rock, but fell off, leaving their scratch marks on the sides.
Another version tells of how two Sioux boys wandered far from their village when Mato the bear, a huge creature that had claws the size of teepee poles, spotted them, and wanted to eat them for breakfast. He was almost upon them when the boys prayed to Wakan Tanka the Creator to help them. They rose up on a huge rock, while Mato tried to get up from every side, leaving huge scratch marks as he did. Finally, he sauntered off, disappointed and discouraged. Wanblee, the eagle, helped the boys off the rock and back to their village. A painting depicting this legend by artist Herbert A. Collins hangs over the fireplace in the visitor's center at Devil's Tower.
The Tower is sacred to several Native American Plains tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Kiowa. Because of this, many Indian leaders objected to climbers ascending the monument, as they felt this was a desecration. The climbers felt that they had a right to climb the Tower, since it is on federal land. A compromise was eventually reached with a voluntary climbing ban during the month of June when the tribes are conducting ceremonies around the monument. Climbers are asked, but not required, to stay off the Tower in June. According to the PBS documentary In Light of Reverence, approximately 85% of climbers honor the ban and voluntarily choose not to climb the Tower during the month of June. However, several climbers along with the Mountain States Legal Foundation sued the Park Service, claiming an inappropriate government entanglement with religion.
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