Attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year, Devils Tower National Monument was the United States' first national monument, declared as such by President Theodore Roosevelt in September 1906. Once obscured by its surroundings, particularly the sedimentary rock that rose around it, erosion has now made this unique geological formation one of Wyoming's most noticeable landmarks.
Most geologists refer to Devils Tower as an igneous intrusion, formed by the forced entry of molten rock between other rock formations, eventually forming columns. Others believe it to be a volcanic plug or the neck of an extinct volcano; however, no volcanic activity has been evident at the site.
Devils Tower National Monument has long been revered as a sacred place by many Plains Indians. The National Park Service (NPS) recognizes more than twenty tribes that have probable cultural affiliation with the landmark. Others have historic and geographical ties to the area where Devils Tower sits. For many American Indians, the tower is known as Bears Lodge and scores of tribal members visit annually to attend sacred ceremonies at the site, which is situated near the towns of Sundance and Moorcroft.
Each year, avid climbers head to Devils Tower in large numbers, dubbing it one of the best traditional crack climbing areas in North America. With large hexagonal columns that soar up to 400 feet high, the monument offers technical challenges even for experienced climbers. A climbing management plan required by the National Environmental Policy Act helps to lessen the impact of the sport on the monument and climbers must follow strict guidelines when scaling Devils Tower.
Many Native Americans have opposed climbing at the site, expressing concerns that it desecrates their sacred area. Due to these issues, the NPS has instituted a voluntary closure policy during the month of June, when many American Indian ceremonies take place at the monument. During this time, the NPS asks climbers to voluntarily refrain from climbing on the Tower. Most climbers comply with the request.
In addition to climbing, three hiking trails are available to visitors and most are easily accomplished by even inexperienced hikers. The National Park Service also offers other activities at Devils Tower National Monument, including guided walks, interpretive lectures, a cultural program series, and a junior ranger program for children.
For visitors wishing to stay overnight near the monument, The Devils Tower Campground, situated along the Belle Fourche River, offers sites for tents and RVs. The campground is open from the end of April to the end of October, the most popular time for visiting and climbing.
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