The First National Monument and the First National Park


Wyoming for all that it is the least populated state in the country it is home to some really spectacular firsts. The counties first national monument, Devil’s Tower, is on the East side of the state; and our first national park, Yellowstone, takes up the Northwestern corner.

After leaving Deadwood I thought I would be in for a long drive through flat empty lands to Yellowstone, but to my surprise not 30 miles over the South Dakota border is one of the most iconic national monuments, The Devil’s Tower. While it might not be the best known of national monuments it was memorialized quite beautifully by Stephen Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I remembered watching the film as a child with my father. It was a “Must See” in his eyes for any true SciFi fan.

Devil’s tower is the remnant of some long dormant volcano tube. Over time the sedimentary rock eroded leaving the tower alone on its hill. The sides of the hill are made up of long hexagonal rocks that stretch from the base to the tower. While the geological explanation for the tower might be accurate, there are many native tales for how it formed. My favorite is the story from the Plains Crow Indians who lived in this region. They believed that two young sisters were out playing in the rocks on the hill. Below the rocks bears had gathered and one large bear saw the girls and decided to eat them. The girls fled to the tallest rock, the bear followed them and scratched the rock to climb up. The Great Spirit seeing the girls in distress caused the rock to grow. In vain the bear continued scratching at the rock, but eventually the rock grew too high. It is said the girls are still on the top of the tower.

After driving to Devil’s tower it was time to visit Yellowstone. All I have heard about is that this was the place to see. From Old Faithful to the “Serengeti of North America” and Teddy Roosevelt’s most beautiful road in the country. Needless to say I was excited. I wanted to see the animals, the scenery and the spectacle.

I did get to walk the geysers and see Old Faithful and drove the most beautiful roads. But more than anything I was shocked by the trees. Throughout the park forest fires had devastated the once lush landscape. Though it was coming back, new trees were growing, I could not get over the black and grey husks all over the hillside.

On the animal front I did get to see pronghorns, buffalo and numerous deer. Sadly no bears, wolves or moose. More than anything in Yellowstone the pictures say it all. Skies as far as the eye can see, mountains and valleys untouched by man. It was beautiful. After visiting Yellowstone I was convinced here are truly the most beautiful roads in the country, if you are in the area I highly recommend a visit.

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This entry was published on July 9, 2013 at 10:19 pm. It’s filed under RoadTrip and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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