Devils Tower National Monument
advertisementThe looming structure of Devils Tower is central to a number of legends and at least 20 Indian tribes attach great importance to it. One story -common to the Kiowa, Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne and Sioux - says that seven young girls were playing in the forest when a great bear appeared and chased them. When they realised that they had no hope of escape, they jumped on a low rock and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. As they prayed, the rock began to grow upwards, lifting the seven girls higher into the sky. The angry bear jumped up against the sides of the growing tower and left deep claw marks - which may be seen to this day. The girls were pushed up into the heavens, where they became the seven stars of the Pleiades. Known to the Indians as Mateo Tepee or Grizzly Bear Lodge, the tower is actually the remnant of a volcanic extrusion that occurred 60-70 million years ago. Rising some 1200 feet above the nearby Belle Fourche River, it was first recorded by white explorers in 1875. The surveyors called the rock Devils Tower after an old Indian name, The Bad God's Tower. The area was made the first US National Park by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and since then the tower has become a popular climbing site - well over 20,000 recorded ascents were made last century - and it remains a very sacred place for Indians and non-Indians alike. Many have reported spiritual experiences on the rock - visionaries have been attracted to the site for decades and many have reported seeing strange light phenomena and UFOs flying about the tower's summit. You never know, you could be lucky. Although open throughout the year, the campground and Visitors Centre is open from April until October, when the weather is most kind.