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The Majestic, Mystical Devils Tower

Updated on March 31, 2020

Devils Tower, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Devils Tower
Devils Tower | Source

The first United States National Monument

On September 24, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the unique formation in Butte, Wyoming, a national monument. To anyone seeing this phenomenon, they are left in awe. How could this have been formed millions of years ago? There are on-going scientific studies today to determine how this happened.

Believed to be of rare igneous rock deposited in a shallow inland sea. This sea covered much of the central and western United States. It took millions of years for erosion to whittle down the sediment exposing this formation. The columns are the most striking feature measuring hundreds of feet into the air and measuring ten feet in diameter.

It was formed during the Triassic period, the Jurassic period, and, finally, the Paleocene period while dinosaurs roamed the land. It was below the earth's surface then but erosion did its job showing us finally, the Tower. Different scientific theories are existing to determine the exact cause. Some believe that during the Paleocene period, the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills were uplifted and thrust through the crust of an extinct volcano or even a plug that remained from the volcano. Perhaps it can never with certainty be established. Nevertheless, the Tower is forever ours to embrace and enjoy.

Great book to plan your trip.

Jurassic Period

Jurassic Period
Jurassic Period

The First Climbers

Before the Tower was declared a national monument, two local ranchers, Willard Ripley and William Rogers, who lived nearby, were determined to climb to the top. In the 1890's they had to build a stake ladder about 350 feet in length. They began cutting logs and then pegs three inches in diameter and thirty feet long. Slowly, they completed the ladder. Years later, it would be Linnie Rogers, wife of Willard, who would be the first woman to climb to the top. Rogers and Ripley took full advantage of the publicity their claim could generate. The wives set out food and drink charging the public, which came in droves to see this spectacular climb. It would become a yearly event called "The Settlers Picnic." Thousands would attend enjoying guest speakers, music, poetry, and food.

The last use of the original stake ladder was daredevil Babe "The Fly" White in 1972. After that climb, the park service removed the bottom section of the ladder for safety reasons.

First Climbers, Rogers and Ripley

Rogers and Ripley
Rogers and Ripley

Stake Ladder

George Hopkins Stuck on Top of Tower

George Hopkins
George Hopkins

The First Free Climb

In 1937, Fritz Wiessner, a German-American climber and member of the American Alpine Club, along with Lawrence Coveney together, did the first free climb. The following year, Jack Duranc began a second expedition but was determined to find a more natural route. He succeeded, and it became known as the Durrance Route. A few years later, he returned, but this time it was for a rescue mission.

Seem that George Hopkins, a professional parachute, was determined to show he could parachute to l on a specific spot. He did land correctly, but his rope got tangled within the rocks, and for several days he was marooned on top of the Tower. Planes dropped food and water to him until he could get rescued.

Over 7000 spectators were on hand to watch the rescue. Hopkins went on to work with the military and training the infantry.

Rescue of George Hopkins

Rescue of Hopkins
Rescue of Hopkins | Source

Native American Tribes

The Northern Plains Indians consider Devils Tower to be a sacred place to hold their ceremonies. They have different names and legends of the Tower. For them, it is called "Bear's House or "Bears Lodge." Each tribe has its own legend passed down in their oral legends. Each year, during June, the Arapahoe, the Kiowa, the Cheyenne and, the Lakota hold their sacred ceremonies. During this time, climbers honor this tradition and don't climb during June. Each year, over 4000, climbers will attempt to climb the Tower.

Devils Tower was featured in the 1977 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


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