Devil’s Tower, WYO 2012
While driving through eastern Wyoming, I had the opportunity to see and visit the infamous Devil’s Tower at the end of June 2012.
Devils Tower is a butte, possibly laccolithic, composed of igneous rock in the Bear Lodge Ranger District of the Black Hills, near Hulett and Sundance in northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises 386 m above the Belle Fourche River, standing 265 m from summit to base. The summit is 1,559 m above sea level.
Stephen Speilberg chose it for a starring role in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977; local rancher W. Rogers conquered it using a ladder in 1893; and in the 1940s a parachutist sat there for six days wen he lost the rope that should have allowed him to climb down.
Formed from volcanic lava thrust up through the underlying bedrock, it can be seen from over 160 km away, the color of its rocks changing with the time of day and with the seasons.
Devil’s Tower was formed 50 million years ago when hot, molten lava cooled, contracted, and formed vertical rows of hexagonal columns. Softer rocks that surrounded the intrusion were worn away, leaving the tower exposed above the surrounding land.
The local Kowa people believe that Devil’s Tower was conceived when a bear chased a group of girls onto a low rock. The rock rose up carrying the girls out of the bear’s reach, but the bear scratched at the mound with its powerful claws, leaving furrows down the tower’s side. Eventually, the bear died, and the girls lived forever as the seven stars of the Pleiades.