Devil's Tower National Park is a small park in Wyoming consisting of one road that travels through a prairie dog town and ends at the base of the tower. It is one of Cori's favorites. The park has many light activities like a walk through a prairie dog town and a paved walk around the tower that you may only walk a part of if you wish. There is also camping and ranger presentations in the evening.
While we were there, we attended a ranger presentation on the prescribed burning at Devil's Tower. In nature, the destruction of fire is part of a life cycle of a forest. Fires can start by lightning strikes like the one that destroyed many miles in Mesa Verde National Park several years ago. It is customary to fight any fire that starts in the park, but this prevents the destruction of dead materials that should be burnt away. To help nature in the park, with the help of fire fighters, stated a fire to destroy the dead scrub and to allow new growth in areas of the park. If they did not do a prescribed burn, a fire like Mesa Verde's could destroy the whole park. There were many reports of animals running though local people's yards to escape the fire, but the wildlife soon returned. Now it is possible to see dear at the base of the tower, which was not a place they would go before. Animal and plant life is now abundant in the park.
Devil's Tower is called Bear Lodge by the Native Americans. According to one legend, the tower was formed when seven children jumped on a rock while running away from a giant bear. The rock grew, carrying the children from safety, but the bear clawed at the tower as it grew, leaving deep grooves in the sides. Due to the spiritual importance of Bear Lodge to the Native Americans, it is important that any prayer bundles found along the trails should be left alone.
Prairie Dog Town
One of our favorite animals in the park is the prairie dogs. They live in a community that surrounds two sides of the road part wa into the park. You can stop the car at a small parking area and see the prairie dogs right there, or you can hike around the loop trail that borders the town. it is important that people do not feed the prairie dogs because it might make them aggressive towards people, and people food is unhealthy for them.
Rock Climbing on the Tower
We went to the park on our vacation in September of 1998. While we were at the park we went rock climbing (see our misadventure story and pictures), camped, and visited the prairie dog town. Climbing at Devil's Tower is renowned for its amazing crack climbing. Though climbers are in the small percentages compared to other visitors, they are something of a historical legacy. The famed Fritz Weissner climbed there many years ago, and his shoes remain on display at the lodge at the base of the tower, amongst other historical and informational climbing exhibits.
Climbing at the tower is a special privilege. We share the tower through an agreement with the Native Americans. During a religious season in June, an agreement between the Native Americans and climbers recommends that climbers volunteer not to climb. The Native Americans requested that it not be illegal to climb, but that it be voluntary. A voluntary closure shows respect for the Native American's culture. It is important that all climbers respect this wish.
This voluntary closure has seen a drastic drop in climbers during that month. many climbers who show up to climb are informed by the rangers of the voluntary closure and elect to climb elsewhere (Rangers have many suggestions of great places). This is a big accomplishment considering some unknowing people come from Europe to climb and still respect the closure. Hopefully with this cooperation, Devil's Tower will not become an access problem for climbers like many other areas. Please call park rangers for more information.
The weather at Devil's Tower is similar to the weather at the Black Hills in South Dakota.