The Mysterious Origin of Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower is a mysterious and iconic monolith located in northeastern Wyoming. Rising 1200 feet from the grasslands near the Belle Fourche River, this rock obelisk has long been a prominent landmark in the area. Although its origin remains somewhat obscure, geologists agree that the Devil's Tower was formed from molten rock forced upward from deep within the Earth. In the late 19th century, geologists Carpenter and Russell studied the Devil's Tower and concluded that it was formed by an igneous intrusion.

This is when magma is forced into other layers of rock. Current research supports this conclusion, suggesting that the rock cooled underground rather than reaching the surface as a volcano. The characteristic furrowed columns are the result of contraction during the cooling of the magma. Geological estimates place the Devil's Tower at more than 50 million years old, although erosion likely only exposed it one or two million years ago.

The Devil's Tower was the first national monument in the United States, established on September 24, 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. As you walk the 1.3-mile (2.1 km) Tower Trail from Devils Tower National Monument, you can still see some of the wooden pegs that were used to climb it. Other attractions in the area include Yellowstone National Park, which was established in 1872. The legend of the Devil's Tower is also fascinating. According to one story, two sisters tricked a bear into thinking they had climbed to the top of the rock.

In another story, an old man told Wooden Leg, a Cheyenne from the north, that it was an eroded remnant of a lacolite. Pohd-lohk, an elderly Kiowa, gave Scott Momaday (Kiowa) the name Tsoai-talee (Boy from the Tree of the Rocks), linking him to this myth. Every year, thousands of climbers travel across the country to experience Devils Tower for themselves. As rain and snow continue to erode its sedimentary rocks, more of this mysterious monolith will be exposed for generations to come.

Roxanne Cotner
Roxanne Cotner

Incurable music nerd. Amateur pop culture specialist. General internet aficionado. Unapologetic web lover. Hipster-friendly bacon fanatic.