Devil’s Tower is one of the most iconic visions of Wyoming’s frontier. The butte can be found in the Black Hills, more specifically the Bear Lodge Mountains, and is made from igneous rock. The formation is considered a National Monument and has held cultural and historical significance for centuries. Native American folklore tells fascinating and mysterious stories about the rock, some of which have truly haunting undertones. These cultures regard Devil’s Tower as a sacred space, and perhaps that is why its surrounding legends are especially eerie.
Devil's Tower stands 867 feet in height, and reaches an impressive elevation of 5,112 feet above sea level. Teddy Roosevelt declared this site to be the first official United States National Monument in September of 1906. Today, the monument continues to attract over 400,000 visitors per year.
The legend behind the creation of Devil's Tower is one that is both mystical and alluring. The tale tells of two young boys who were lost in the prairie. One afternoon, they wandered especially far from their village and lost track of the path back home. For three days, these boys wandered around and survived off of wild berries and water from nearby streams. By the fourth day, the boys had an eerie feeling of being followed by someone -- or something.
What the boys heard was a bear, but no ordinary creature. This bear was called Mato and was enormous. So big, in fact, that he could have easily swallowed both children in one attempt. He came nearer and the earth seemed to shake with every step. His immense hunger had lured him to the scent of his young prey, who could feel his hot breath drawing closer.
Just in the nick of time, the earth began to quake and out of nowhere appeared a great tower under the feet of the boys. As the rock grew taller, the boys were brought further and further away from danger. Mato grew furious and began clawing at the rock, creating the scratches that can still be seen today. The bear was nearly as tall as the tower itself, and attempting to reach the boys from every angle, frantically scratching all sides of the barrier. Finally, he gave up and the boys lives were spared. Soon after, they were carried to safety by a majestic eagle.
While this legend may just be folklore, it nevertheless holds cultural importance to the tribes that have carried it down for decades. That is why many tribes refer to the monument not as Devil's Tower, but rather Bear's Lodge or Bear's Tipi.
Today, the tower continues to hold sacred importance to several Plains tribes, including the Cheyenne, Lakota, and Kiowa. Those interested in climbing the formation are asked to respect the tribes and stay off of it during the month of June, when ceremonies are held.
Devil’s Tower is a must visit, both for its cultural importance and presence in the Wyoming landscape.
Have you made the trip to visit Devil’s Tower? Be sure to share your experience there — we’d love to hear from you!