A Close Encounter with the Devils Tower


Richard Dreyfuss and the mashed potatoes Close Encounters
Richard Dreyfuss and mashed potatoes

What does the actor Richard Dreyfuss, mashed potatoes and aliens have in common? Well, they are all linked to Devils Tower National Monument.

How? No matter how unlikely,  the classic 1977 Steven Spielberg science fiction movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind bonded these images in my mind and that of many others forever. In the movie Dreyfuss plays the character Roy Neary who has a close encounter with aliens and is then compulsively drawn to Devils Tower which he cannot explain. He starts making an image of the tower out of mashed potatoes, which then leads to him making a large scale model in his living room! His strange behavior eventually drives his wife and kids away.

close encounters of the third kind
A classic sci-fi movie

After many incidents and strange happenings around the world the aliens eventually land their enormous UFO atop of Devils Tower to interact with the government officials who have set up a base there. Roy Neary sneaks his way into the landing site and the ultimately friendly aliens immediately gravitate towards him for a true encounter of the third kind (direct alien contact). It is a great movie that I can thoroughly recommend.

close encounters of the third kind
A close encounter of the third kind

From the first time I ever saw that movie I wanted to visit Devils Tower. Not for any reason to do with aliens, just simply because it was such an amazing looking place. I am pleased to say in 2013 I finally made it to this part of the country in the north-east corner of Wyoming and I was suitably impressed by this incredible geological formation.

Devils Tower Entrance
Devils Tower Entrance

As you approach the monument by road you start to see it appear from in between trees and hills from a long distance away. The excitement builds and it you soon realize it has been worth the trip. At 867 feet tall from the base to the summit of the tower and with such a unique appearance (the top is about the size of a football field), it is understandable why President Theodore Roosevelt declared this the nations first National Monument in 1906.

Devils Tower National Monument WY
Devils Tower

The Indian tribes that lived in the Black Hills region (such as the Lakota, Kiowa and Cheyenne) had legends about how the tower was formed and achieved its unique appearance. They essentially involve 7 children or 7 brothers who are being chased by a bear(s) and end up on a flat rock that magically starts to rise into the sky, taking them out of the bears reach. The grooves down the side of the tower have been gouged out by the bears claws as it tries to climb the rock to get to the children. It’s claws break and the children are safe. The legends say that there are 7 stars (the Pleiades) in the sky that represent the children and 5 others nearby are the bear still chasing them to this day.

The legend of Devils Tower
The legend of Devils Tower

There is a trail you can take around the base of the tower which is just over 1 mile long (about 2 km). Whilst on this trail you not only get a fantastic close up view that allows you to see the rock grooves in detail, it also shows you how much of the rock has fallen off over a millennia. Quite staggering really.

Devils Tower WY
Each side is very different from the other
Devils Tower National Monument Wyoming USA
I am totally dwarfed by this monolith! All of the rocks scattered about behind me were once part of the tower

Whilst on the trail I noticed there were a number of rock climbers up there too, who given he scale of the rock appeared as just little specks really. They must have hardy souls to go up that steep incline!

Devils Tower Rock Climbers
It was raining while these rock climbers were up there. This is not for me!
Devils Tower Alien Crossing
No Aliens on this day

So as I said my visit had nothing to do with aliens, but a little part of me kind of hoped, just kind of, that a UFO would come zooming out of the sky and land up there. Oh how it impressive it would have been, but alas I just had to settle for something else that came from a distant civilization……

A nice cool Bundaberg Ginger Beer that comes from Australia, which I surprisingly found in one of the stores at the monument gates! This is one of my favourite drinks back home and to make it even better, it was cheaper than they are in Australia too! All in all a great day!

Bundaberg Ginger Beer Devils Tower
Cheers!
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4 Comments Add yours

  1. David Patterson says:

    Awesome movie… and looks like you had a cool visit.

    1. Deano says:

      Yes it’s an amazing sight that’s for sure!

    2. Deano says:

      The weather on my visit there wasn’t too good either, but it fined up enough to enjoy the walk around the base of the tower

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