Devils Tower (Lakota: Matȟó Thípila or Ptehé Ǧí, which means “Bear Lodge” and ”brown buffalo horn”, respectively) is an igneous intrusion or laccolith located in the Black Hills near Hulett and Sundance in Crook County, northeastern Wyoming, above the Belle Fourche River. It rises dramatically 1,267 feet (386 m) above the surrounding terrain and the summit is 5,112 feet (1,558 m) above sea level.
Devils Tower was the first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906, by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Monument's boundary encloses an area of 1,347 acres (5.45 km2).
In recent years, about 1% of the Monument's 400,000 annual visitors climb Devils Tower, mostly through traditional climbing techniques.
Tribes including the Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had cultural and geographical ties to the monolith before European and early American immigrants reached Wyoming. Their names for the monolith include: Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear's House (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear's Lodge Butte (Lakota), Bear's Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne), Tree Rock (Kiowa), and Grizzly Bear Lodge (Lakota).
The name Devil's Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge when his interpreter misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God's Tower. This was later shortened to the Devil's Tower. All information signs in that area use the name "Devils Tower", following a geographic naming standard whereby the apostrophe is eliminated.
In 2005, a proposal to recognize several American Indian ties through the additional designation of the monolith as Bear Lodge National Historic Landmark met with opposition from the US Representative Barbara Cubin, arguing that a "name change will harm the tourist trade and bring economic hardship to area communities".
Photo by Arvind Mohanram