Destinations, Travel Tips

Devil’s Tower – USA’s first National Monument

It is the first spot to be declared an United States National Monument, this happening on the 24th of September 1906. And it is not hard to understand why president Theodore Roosevelt chose to do this as the 386 meter-tall pillar attracts about 400 000 tourists every year and baffles geologists with its unique way of formation. Just imagine: you can see 5 states from the top of it: Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. So what makes this place so unforgettable?

Firstly, the appearance of the tower is different from everything you’ve ever seen before. Dominating the entire landscape around it with its height, the log-like mono-lite was described by colonel Richard I. Dodge, the one who gave its name, as ‘inaccessible to any un-winged creature’. However, the hundreds of people who climb it every year show that a little human will could be enough to reach the top of any giant. The first known climb is known to have taken place in 1893 and the rest is history. However, the native tribes who consider the tower to be sacred considered this as objected to the large number of climbers who come here all the time. An agreement was finally reached as now visitors are asked not to climb the tower in June, when ceremonies are conduced near the monument. Most people (about 85%) respect this, but others still refuse to submit to the voluntary ban.

The history of the Devil’s Tower has begun about 50 million years ago but exactly how it was formed remained quite a mystery for some time. More theories were presented, some scientists believing that the tower was the neck of an extinct volcano. Now, most specialists agree that the monument was formed long time ago when hot, melted material from the bowels of the Earth emerged to the surface and pierced the rock at a weaker point. The mass of material slowly became colder and then solidified and contracted. The contraction made it crack and this is how the multifaceted columns were created, this giving it its unique appearance.

The natives have their own magical legends to explain the apparition of the sacred monument. According to the Kiowa, everything began when 7 little girls were followed by a terrible bear. They jumped on a rock which suddenly started to grow in order to protect them from the beast. However, the bear did not give up and he scratched the surface of the rock so as to reach the girls. Fortunately, he was unable to do so and finally died of exhaustion. The girls, however, lived forever as they were turned into the seven stars of the constellation of Pleiades. This is why the tower is named Mato Tipila by the natives, which means “Bear Tower’. The Cheyenne tribe had another version of the story; they claimed that an evil god lived on the tower and that he beat the drums which gave birth to thunders.

See also: 60 Mind-Bending Rock Formations From Around the World

It’s not hard at all to find the monument as its unmistakable shape can be seen from 160 kilometers because of the flat area around it. The plain where it is located, in the north-east of the state Wyoming, is spread mostly with farms. This place is, however, the habitat for numerous species of plants and animals such as north-American squirrels, rattle snakes and the famous prairie dog, which was slaughtered in the past because it was thought to destroy the plants needed for the cattle. Thankfully, nowadays they can live peacefully and undisturbed as they are protected by the law.

As far as it seems, The Devil’s Tower seems like a perfect destination both for the more adventurous, but also for the others as well. Firstly, as odd as it may seem, ignore the fact that on all information signs you will find the spelling “Devils Tower”. It’s a geographic standard name  in which apostrophes are eliminated. Then, if you want to climb it to the top, there are special climbing routes to help you. However, remember to announce a ranger before trying this. Now it should not be the case, but in 1940 a parachutist found himself trapped on the tower for 6 days before he was finally saved. And if you have the feeling that you have seen the tower before, you probably have: it served as the contact location for the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. Rings a bell?

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