Devils Tower More Than a Big Rock

ToadDate 0257.06.12.17-SD

Once there was an Indian tribe camped beside a river (now called the Belle Fourche River). Seven small girls were playing outside of the camp, when a giant bear saw them and began to chase them. The girls ran as fast as they could, the bear was getting closer. They climbed up on a rock that was about 3 feet tall and began to pray to the rock. “Rock, take pity on us; Rock, save us.” The rock heard them and began to grow tall, straight up from the ground. It went higher and higher so that the girls were out of the reach of the giant bear. The bear ran at the rock and tried to climb it but was unable to. He clawed at the rock until he broke his claws. As the bear would jump up to try and reach the girls, the rock would grow some more. When the bear finally gave up the girls were too high in the sky to return to their camp. The girls were turned into seven little stars we see at night in the Pleiades constellation. To this day you can see where the bear claws scratched the side of the rock.

Well, that is one story of how the Devils Tower was formed. Another is that it is an igneous intrusion, phonolite porphyry, that was formed as magma (lava) cooled. As the magma that formed Devils Tower cooled, it condensed into columns. Some geologists believe it is the plugged neck of a volcano that was active about 40 million years ago. The softer rock that surrounded the neck has eroded away leaving a very impressive butte.

The Native Americans call this formation the Bears Lodge or Bears House. A couple of times requests have been made to rename it to Bears Lodge National Historic Landmark, but these requests have been met with opposition.

This formation is a focal point in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Another movie we have added to our list to watch.

If you are into rock climbing, you can check in with the Rangers and climb the tower. Climbing is closed right now for several of the routes because falcons are nesting on it. Once the young leave the nests, the trails should open again.

On our way to the Tower, we stopped to take photos. We had lots of company and the park service and highway department has been kind enough to provide many pull-outs so you can take photos safely. At one of the pull-outs there was an entrance to a ranch. The entrance was framed with these large logs and carved bears that can be seen on the logs. Very clever and pretty.

This is our last night at Hermosa, but would love to come back to explore more of the museums and countryside. Put South Dakota on your list of places to visit and if you are camping check out the Heartland RV and Cabins Park. It is not a campground that entertains you, but provides clean and well-maintained camping areas and cabins. You need to go to the entertainment, which is close by. We have loved our stay here.

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