Before the Kiowa came south they were camped on a stream in the far north where there were a great many bears, many of them. 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 the bears were just about to catch them when the girls jumped on a low rock, about three feet high. One of the girls prayed to the rock, “Rock take pity on us, rock save us!” The rock heard them and began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bears jumped to reach the girls, they scratched the rock, broke their claws, and fell on the ground.
The rock rose higher and higher, the bears still jumped at the girls until they were pushed up into the sky, where they now are, seven little stars in a group (The Pleiades). In the winter, in the middle of the night, the seven stars are right over this high rock. When the people came to look, they found the bears’ claws, turned to stone, all around the base.
No Kiowa living has ever seen this rock, but the old men have told about it - it is very far north where the Kiowa used to live. It is a single rock with scratched sides, the marks of the bears’ claws are there yet, rising straight up, very high. There is no other like it in the whole country, there are no trees on it, only grass on top. The Kiowa call this rock “Tso-aa”, a tree rock, possibly because it grew tall like a tree.
Told by I-See-Many-Camp-Fire-Places, Kiowa soldier at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1897.
The name for the massive monolith in various native languages usually indicates a similar legend, i.e. Bear Lodge, Bear’s Tipi, Aloft on a Rock, etc. If you would like to read some versions of the legend from other tribes, check here: “First Stories about Bear Lodge”
The name, “Devil’s Tower” came from Col. Richard Dodge in 1875 who led a military expedition to confirm reports of gold in the Black Hills.
Rising 867 feet from its base, the column is visible long before you reach it.
A 1.3 mile trail winds around the base. According to one of the wayside exhibits, Devil’s Tower is still “growing taller” as soil is eroded from its base.
This photo, with Ron at the base of the rocks that have fallen over the decades, gives an idea of the height. Over 5000 of the many annual visitors climb the massive column. Climbers must register with the Visitor Center and wear appropriate garb, including climbing helmet, as rock falls are common.
Devil’s Tower was our first designated National Monument, proclaimed so by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
For a slideshow of our scenic 120 mile loop that day, including a stop at the Sundance Kid Museum in Sundance, WY, click on the map below.