Devils Tower – Rocky Sentinel Above the Prairie

Devils Tower from the Info Center Trailhead

Devils Tower, Wyoming.

Our last stop on our journey through Wyoming is the iconic Devils Tower. This might rock appears to have been thrust upward from the earth’s core in some sort of monolithic statement. In reality, though, it slowly appeared as the prairie around it eroded away exposing the harder rock surface of a rare type of rock. I will leave it to the geologists to wonder about the specifics of the tower’s existence (of which there is apparently some scientific disagreement.

I will instead, like the many first-time visitors to the park, simply be in awe of the magnificence of this national monument, protected since 1906 for its scientific value. The opening image is a close-up view of the tower taken from a sequence of trails that visitors can use to loop around the tower for views of the prairie dog town and the nearby Belle Fourche River valley. The 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail has one steep elevation change on the South Side Trail. If you loop the tower counter-clockwise, you’ll be downhill on the large elevation change. The National Park Service’s Devils Tower website lists the details on the park’s hiking trails here.

Devils Tower WY-4
View from the scenic pull-off

Our first views of the tower were from some distance as the tower stands so high above the prairie. We stopped at a pull-off on Wyoming State Highway 24. It was another smoky day for us, but the haze filter in Luminar AI did a decent job of removing much of the haze in the photos I took that day.

Devils Tower WY-3 Altered
Alternate Reality – Cliffs over the Belle Fourche River

Looking in the opposite direction, a set of cliffs were all we could see of the Belle Fourche River from this vantage point. I admit to using sky replacement in this altered reality image to add some life to the hazy sky.

Devils Tower WY-7
Inhabitant of the Prairie Dog Town

One of the first pull-offs inside the national monument is the large prairie dog town. We couldn’t resist stopping to take a few photos of those cute burrowing rodents. Being a rodent, they have a controversial history, however, according to the park website, they are an important part of the prairie ecosystem. The article notes that some prairie dog towns can cover hundreds of acres, the town at Devils Tower encompasses only about 42 acres. You can read more about prairie dogs in the park here.

Devils Tower-6
Devils Tower

The trees at the base of the tower provide a visual perspective on the height of this natural wonder. Three altitude descriptions help with understanding the magnitude of the tower which is 5,112 feet (1558 m) above sea level and stands 1,267 feet (386 m) above the nearby Belle Fourche River. Probably the most important height is referenced from the base of the tower which is 867 feet (264 m) below the relatively flat summit.

Devils Tower WY-6
Devils Tower

There are many hundreds of parallel cracks in the tower making it one of the premier climbing areas in North America. Cracks in the large columnar structure can be wide enough to fit a climber’s body while others are barely wide enough for a handhold. I have no interest in rock climbing, preferring to have solid ground underneath my feet, but for those who enjoy climbing, be sure to check current conditions at the tower before planning a long trip. The pandemic has closed many of the common climbing routes, though on the day I am writing this (early April 2021), there are no closures.

In the month of June each year, there is a voluntary closure in the area inside the Tower Trail to honor the fact that the area is a traditional cultural site for indigenous people. Since the closure is “voluntary,” it doesn’t mean you are prohibited from climbing. As it notes on the website here, there are no fines or citations given to those “caught” entering the closure area. The closure, even though voluntary, has resulted in an 80% drop in climbing activities during the month of June. Because of the sacred nature of the site to American Indians, this closure provides some quiet and solitude for those ceremonies of Native American origin.

We spent a couple of hours at the park having arrived late in the day and still needed to continue into South Dakota for our scheduled evening stop. Near the park entrance, a small collection of businesses ply their tourist items. Among the local businesses in the area, there is a gift shop and a cafe. As of this writing, the cafe is listed as temporarily closed.

From Devils Tower, it’s only about a 90-minute drive to Rapid City, and all of the other attractions in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I conclude this tome with an announcement of a new feature that goes along with the new look on my Journeys blog.

Notes on the new the new theme and new features allowing access to better quality images.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that the new WordPress block editor allows me to embed images directly from Flickr to my posts. In order to take full advantage of the feature, I had to change WordPress themes.

The new theme allows you, dear reader, to get a more detailed view of images that were saved in higher resolution by simply clicking on the image to see it on my Flickr site. Other photo details are included in the data block underneath each image on my Flickr site for those who might be interested. Finally, clicking on any image brings you to the album that features all of the selections for this week’s challenge without my having to create a specific gallery section in my post. Flickr does the work automatically. Check it out. Click on any image above and then a new window will open up. That’s my Flickr site.

Click on the Flickr image to get a detailed view of higher resolution images. Scroll down below the image to view details about the photo and camera used. Use the arrows at the left and right sides of the image to scroll through the entire gallery. I hope you like the new look.

John Steiner

13 comments

  1. I was not aware of this feature with Flickr. Does this mean that the weight of the photos no longer counts in the storage capacity?

    • The only load on capacity in WordPress is the minute amount of space it takes to store the link.
      The only image I store in WordPress going forward is the opening image as it’s larger on the page. I then use the link field on the image to also link that image to the gallery.

      All the rest of the images on the page are embedded in the page via the Flickr block tool. The procedure may change for me as I’m just learning the tools, but for now, that’s what seems to work.

  2. Your first picture shows a light colored Devils Tower, probably because of sunlight falling on it. I remember it to be much darker. In any case, fantastic photos and post on this National Monument!

    • It was late in the day, not quite golden hour and the sun was hitting the western side of the tower. We were near the information center which is located west of the tower.
      I really liked how this image turned out. Thanks!

  3. From the cute prairie dogs at your feet to the mighty rock towering above you, this definitely seems like a must-see destination. Thanks for taking us along, John.

  4. Great memories of our own visit to the Devil’s Tower, including the cute Prairie Dogs 🙂 The Flickr link works well and is something I wasn’t aware of and must investigate. Obviously it would save WP storage so that’s a bonus! Does it also result in better-quality reproductions do you think?

    • It doesn’t display quite as nicely in the post as stored images, but I can now put higher resolution images on Flickr so readers who want can get a much better view of the image by clicking on it. As a bonus, the photo Metadata is available for those who might like more camera and lens details.

      • I’ll have to think about the pros and cons. It would mean a change of theme for me too and I’m happy with what I’m using so that’s a consideration too. Thanks for the info 🙂

  5. Thank you John for this interesting post. We made a brief stop at Devil’s Tower on the way to Allan’s brothers wedding in 1984. But as we were traveling in a camper with11 people, we did not get the full perspective that you share with us.

    • Unfortunately the visitor center was closed due to Covid, so we didn’t get any perspective from the staff. I want to visit again when they are fully open.

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