Devils Tower National Monument

Devil Tower and valley

Silhouetted against the vast Wyoming sky, the monolith known as Devils Tower looks like a national monument—and that’s what it officially became on Sept. 24, 1906, when Theodore Roosevelt made it the first site to get that designation. A Mecca for climbers, the rock rises almost a quarter mile above the meandering Belle Fourche river and is surrounded by pine forests, grasslands and a bustling prairie-dog town.

Devils Tower traces its geological lineage back 65 million years, when a mass of molten volcanic rock didn’t quite make it to the surface. Over eons, the softer rock surrounding the tower was worn away, sculpting a formation so remarkable that it made it into the movies. In the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Devils Tower appears as a kind of intergalactic meeting place. But Hollywood got the coordinates wrong, pinpointing not the national monument, but a spot outside Ault, Colo., nearly 300 miles due south.

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