Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Map of Devil's Tower, Wyoming Map of Devil's Tower, Wyoming

In this more detailed map, Devil's Tower and the Missouri Buttes are red, elevations above 1400 meters are yellow, and elevations below 1400 meters are green.

Two features are significant. First is the cluster of small intrusions, the Missouri Buttes, only 5 kilometers northwest of Devil's Tower. They are about the same size and probably have very similar geology. Second, note that Devil's Tower lies below the surrounding countryside and its summit is only a little above the mesa on which the Missouri Buttes sit. Thus Devil's Tower has been exposed by erosion, but it is not easy to see from a distance. It is visible from several places in the Belle Fourche valley along I-90 east of Moorcroft. Actually, the Missouri Buttes, being higher and more obvious, are the best guide to sighting Devil's Tower from a distance.

Map of Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Above and below are more detailed maps of the tower. Note that it sits on an approximately circular base about 1500 meters in diameter, surrounded, except for a narrow neck, by valleys. Could this base represent the original extent of the intrusion?

Map of Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Distant Views

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower (right) and the Missouri Buttes (left).
Devil's Tower, Wyoming View northeast.

Below left: Missouri Buttes

Below right: Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Devil's Tower, Wyoming  
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Local Stratigraphy

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming  Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

The Monument

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Devil's Tower, Wyoming  
Devil's Tower, Wyoming This view gives a nice picture of the tower and its surrounding base.

Below: wild thangs.

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Geology of the Tower

Devil's Tower, Wyoming View of the tower from the west at the visitor center
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Jointing and fallen columns at the west base of the tower.

Below: fallen columns in the talus. The columns are not very regular at close range.

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Devil's Tower, Wyoming
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Close up of the phonolite that comprises the tower.

 The Base Trail

Devil's Tower, Wyoming Southwest side of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Jointing at the base of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming South end of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Detail of jointing. From bottom to top we see flaring columns, extremely regular columns, slightly undulose columns, and columns with horizontal jointing.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming View south into the Belle Fourche valley.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Southeast side of the tower.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming East side of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming East side of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming View east into the Belle Fourche valley.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming East side of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming View northeast into the Belle Fourche valley.
Devil's Tower, Wyoming Northwest side of the tower
Devil's Tower, Wyoming The Belle Fourche River a few kilometers northeast of the tower.

Origin of the Tower

The total lack of nearby volcanic rocks, the coarse porphyritic texture and uniformity of the phonolite, and the nearby Missouri Buttes all demolish the classic idea of Devils Tower as a volcanic neck. It is clearly an intrusion.

The relationship of the tower to the local landscape suggests it was originally buried and was exhumed by erosion of the Belle Fourche valley:

The elevated base on which the tower sits suggests the original extent of the intrusion may have been wider and that the intrusion may have shielded the underlying sedimentary rocks during entrenchment of the Belle Fourche River.


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Created 7 April 2003, Last Update 01 July 2012

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