A Close Encounter With Devils Tower
In word association games we would guess that Devils Tower is quickly linked with the 1977 sci-fi movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Since its release, Close Encounters of the Third Kind has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, as it was deemed significant by the United States Library of Congress. This honor has ensured that Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming will forever remain intertwined with Hollywood pop culture. Probably appropriate, as some of us have secretly molded our mashed potatoes into a miniature version of Devils Tower just like Richard Dreyfuss did in the movie. If the previous sentence makes little sense to you, then you probably need to rent and stream the movie.
Mashed potatoes aside, Devils Tower was famous in its own right long before tip toeing into Hollywood history. In 1906, Devils Tower became the first national monument in the United States. It was an effort to protect and preserve this unique natural feature protruding from the prairie land. Even before that, Indigenous tribes had long included Devils Tower as part of a sacred and cultural resource.
So, what exactly is this interesting and weird looking tower? Well, a simplistic explanation is that millions of years ago magma below the surface of the Earth was forced into the rock layers above it. As the magma cooled, it contracted and fractured into the crazy-looking columns seen up and down the surface of the Tower. Over millions of years erosion exposed the Tower.
Devils Tower is 867-feet tall from its base. It has a diameter of 1,000 feet and its top is 1.5 acres. It sits in northeastern Wyoming among the Black Hills. Devils Tower can be easily seen while driving toward the two-square-mile park surrounding the Tower.
As you enter the park and make your way to the Visitor Center located at the monument's base, you'll have the thrill of driving past Prairie Dog Town. Yes, it's cool to see these little black-tailed prairie dogs scurrying around and popping in and out of holes in the ground. Prairie dogs can also be quite noisy if you take time to observe them. But, whatever you do, don't feed them. We're serious and so is the National Park Service. Signs are posted reminding visitors to leave the little critters alone, as they may not be as cute as they look. Prairie dogs are known to bite and could carry disease.
The Devils Tower Visitor Center was pretty busy during our post-Labor Day visit. Parking was nearing capacity and the trails were crowded. While we're not normally ones for crowded areas, the fullness of the area didn't dampen our awe of the unique monument. Even from the parking area, the view is spectacular.
There are several short hiking trails circling Devils Tower that allow visitors to get an even closer view of the monument. Our pup wasn't allowed on the trails, but was allowed to walk with us along the paved public areas near the Visitor Center. As with all national parks and monuments, dogs must remain leashed.
Those wishing to climb the monument must register to do so; though the National Park Service observes a voluntary climbing closure in June, as it is a culturally significant time for Native American tribes associated with Devils Tower.
Devils Tower is open to the public all year, but the park can fill pretty fast. Check the National Park Service online at www.nps.gov to learn more about the Tower, activities and hours of operation, as changes might occur due to area events.
Camping is allowed at a campground on the grounds of the park during the warmer months, but no RV hookups are available. However, we stayed at a pretty large KOA just outside the gates of Devils Tower. The KOA offered full RV hookups in the shadow of Devils Tower. Along with other amenities including a store, snack bar with ice cream, restaurant, nightly hayride, pool and nearby post office, the KOA had a showing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Of course it did!
It was a dark and rainy day when we arrived at the Tower, making it all the more mysterious looking. As we awoke the next morning the fog had rolled in and the Tower was barely visible. As the sun poked through and the fog diminished, the clouds circled the top of Devils Tower and we took more photos before leaving the area. We encourage entering the park to get a close-up view of Devils Tower. But, if it's too crowded for you, the Tower's large size and unique shape make it easily viewable from outside the park and visitors should have little trouble capturing interesting photos.
In addition to photos as souvenirs from our visit, we left the park with one other neat item; a 45th Anniversary Devils Tower National Monument/Close Encounters spaceship mug purchased at the Visitor Center. Who needs another coffee mug commemorating some unique event? Well, apparently, we do!
Thanks for reading about our devilishly good time visiting Devils Tower. Please tap on the heart icon below if you enjoyed this article. Sign up using the form at the bottom of the page so you don't miss any of our blog posts. It's free. Visit rubyswindingroad.com to read our previous blog posts. In the meantime, we'll be out wandering.