DEVILS TOWER NATIONAL MONUMENT
America's First National Monument
Devils Tower rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.
This 1347 acre park is covered with pine forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are seen.
Also known as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site for many American Indians.
President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.
Wildlife is abundant at Devils Tower National Monument. Wildflowers, sedges and occasional shrubs provide food and habitat for mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Black-tailed prairie dogs make their home in the soft alluvial soil along the river. Even the Tower provides homes for swallows, rock doves, and chipmunks.
Many non-native plant species have made their way into Devils Tower National Monument, competing with native plants, and, in many cases, out-competing them. Biologists have identified at least 56 exotic (non-native) plant species in Devils Tower. Three of these - Leafy Spurge, Houndstongue, and non-native species of Thistles - are being actively managed.
Leafy Spurge is primarily controlled by biological means. Spurge Beetles have been introduced from Eurasia. These beetles live on and eat the plant. Beetles lay their eggs on the roots, and when the beetle larvae hatch, they eat the roots. This opens the roots to fungal invasion. It is actually the fungus which kills the Leafy Spurge. Although not a native species, Spurge Beetles eat only Leafy Spurge and do not affect other plants.
Houndstongue is a biennial and requires two years to complete its growth and produce seeds. During the plants' second year of growth, the seed heads are manually removed, preventing regeneration.
Three species of Thistles (Scotch, Musk and Bull) are controlled with herbicides. Biological controls are used on Canada Thistles. The Stem-mining Weevil attacks the stem, eating a hole in the stem and killing the plant. Gall Flies create galls on the thistle, preventing the plant from producing seeds. The Seed-head Weevil eats the seeds.
The year 1956 marks the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of Devils Tower National Monument, the first of our national monuments. The same year is likewise the Golden Anniversary of the enactment of the Antiquities Act which authorized the President, by proclamation, to set aside "historical landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are upon lands owned or controlled by the United States as National Monuments." Under this law and subsequent authorizations, 84 national monuments have now been established.
All who have seen the gigantic stump-like formation, known as Devils Tower, rising some 1,200 feet above the Belle Fourche River, will understand why it inspired the imagination of the Indians. They called it Mateo Tepee, meaning Grizzly Bear Lodge, and had several legends regarding its origin. According to the Kiowas, who at one time are reputed to have lived in the region, their tribe once camped on a stream where there were many bears. One day seven little girls were playing at a distance from the village and were chased by some bears. The girls ran toward the village and when the bears were about to catch them, they jumped to a low rock about three feet in height. One of them prayed to the rock, "Rock, take pity on us--Rock, save us." The rock heard them and began to elongate itself upwards, pushing the children higher and higher out of reach of the bears, When the bears jumped at them they scratched the rock, broke their claws and fell back upon the ground. The rock continued to push the children upward into the sky while the bears jumped at them, The children are still in the sky, seven little stars in a group (the pleiades). According to the legend the marks of the bears' claws may be seen on the side of the rock.
The Visitor Center is open mid-spring through fall. Hours vary season to season. Interpretive exhibits explain the geologic, natural, and cultural history of the area.