2 National Monuments: Explore More Treasures
Nestled amid Wyoming’s sacred Black Hills near the town of Sundance, Devils Tower attracts avid climbers, adventure seekers and curious spectators. Learning the history, geology and legend of the national monument will make your visit to Devils Tower even more fascinating and meaningful.
Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 as the nation’s first national monument, the tower itself is a mass of gray, striated rock that rises 1,267 feet above the surrounding pine forests.
Its mysterious character has mesmerized people for centuries. Many American Indian tribes still consider the tower a sacred site. As a result, the National Parks Service asks climbers and scramblers to voluntarily refrain from those activities inside the Loop Trail during the month of June to respect tribes’ cultural traditions and rituals such as sun dances, prayer offerings and vision quests.
A good place to start is the Devils Tower Visitor Center, located about three miles from the entrance to the park. Interpretive exhibits illuminate the geologic, natural and cultural history of the area. The center staff’s will fill you in on climbing the tower, trail conditions and park activities.
Situated about 10 miles west of Kemmerer in southwest Wyoming, Fossil Butte is a ruggedly impressive topographic feature that rises sharply some 1,000 feet above Twin Creek Valley to an elevation of more than 7,500 feet above sea level. The butte is located just north of US 30N and the Union Pacific Railroad, which traverse the valley.
The monument protects a portion of the largest deposit of freshwater fish fossils in the world. The richest fossil fish deposits are found in multiple limestone layers, which lie some 100 feet below the top of the butte. The fossils represent several varieties of perch, as well as other freshwater genera and herring similar to those in modern oceans. A large, deep-bodied fish with many curious plates is common. Other fish such as paddlefish, garpike and stingray are also present.
At the base of Fossil Butte are the bright red, purple, yellow and gray beds of the Wasatch Formation. Eroded portions of these horizontal beds slope gradually upward from the valley floor and steepen abruptly. Overlying them and extending to the top of the butte are the much steeper buff-to-white beds of the Green River Formation, which are about 300 feet thick.
Visitors can explore the area on two hiking trails or learn more about Fossil Butte at the visitor center, where more fossils are on display, including a 13-foot crocodile, the oldest articulated bat and a mass mortality of 356 fish.