Devils Tower, above the Belle Fourche River, Wyoming.jpg

Devils Tower, above the Belle Fourche River, Wyoming

On this early dawn around summer solstice, the sun rose behind the western face of Devils Tower. The architecture of this 1300-foot structure was first formed underground from molten volcanic rock that slowly cooled from liquid into hardened polygonal columns made of rare and exceptionally durable phonolite porphyry. Long buried beneath layers of sedimentary rock, the erosion of the softer sandstone, shale and gypsum around the structure, in time, opened this ancient laccolith to the elements. Exposure to sun and rain fed the growth of lichen, especially the vibrant yellow-green crustose lichen prominently coating its south-facing columns.

Several indigenous tribes honor this place as the setting for creation stories. The Lakota People that lived in this part of eastern Wyoming named the butte ‘Mato Tipila’ (Bear Lodge) and visited here for vision quests, as well as to spend overnight trips, as evidenced by remains of shelters around its base.

More recently it had become part of contemporary mythology serving as the imposing backdrop for Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the fictional landing site of, and first contact with extraterrestrials.

- James Baker