Upon the Devil’s Land
A dramatic title is only fitting for a dramatic natural monument. Funny thing is, “Devil’s Tower” is actually a misinterpretation of Native American names such as “Bear’s House, Bear’s Liar, Home of the Bears, ect. (source).” In 1875, a mistaken interpreter for Col. Dodge referred to it as “Bad Gods Tower (ibid).” Later shortened to Devils Tower (minus the apostrophe), this monolith in eastern Wyoming seems to rise out of nowhere to 5,112 ft. (1558 m) above sea level.
The traditional Native American name is more fitting for their story of how the tower was formed:
“According to the Native American tribes of the Kiowa and Lakota Sioux, some girls went out to play and were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The bears, in an effort to climb the rock, left deep claw marks in the sides, which had become too steep to climb. (Those are the marks which appear today on the sides of Devils Tower.) When the girls reached the sky, they were turned into the star constellation the Pleiades (source).”
What scientist believe is the remains of the interior of an ancient volcano, is still considered highly sacred to modern Native Americans. Many visitors are impacted by a sense of the spiritual when their eyes are caught by its lines that lead heavenward.
“At the top of the ridge, I caught sight of Devil’s Tower up thrust against the gray sky as if in the birth of time the core of the earth had broken through its crust and the motion of the world was begun. There are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man; Devil’s Tower is one of them.”
- N. Scott Momaday – The Way to Rainy Mountain, 1969
While some are content to simply gaze heavenward, others are drawn to close contact in an attempt to reach the summit.
Not being skilled to make the climb, the wife and I settled for hiking upon the Devil’s land via Red Beds Trail, a short three-mile hike around the base of the tower.
Devils Tower, or Bear’s Liar…either name brings with it a sense of the spiritual, and images of chaotic dramatic beauty. Which is fitting when one considers the story of this tower that spans millions of years. It’s a tale that we had the privilege of witnessing in part, and an epic drama that continues to go on.