Test Your Knowledge of Devils Tower National Monument

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Take Our Devils Tower Quiz

[This is the second of a two-part series designed to test your knowledge of your home state.]

Think you know all there is to know about Wyoming’s most recognizable landmark? Maybe not. Take our Devils Tower quiz to see if you’re an expert or amateur when it comes to our country’s first national monument.

#1. In which 1970’s-era movie was Devils Tower prominently featured:

  • A. Star Wars
  • B. Apocalypse Now
  • C. Alien
  • D. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • E. North by Northwest

Okay, we gave you this one. Of course, the answer is (D) Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg’s iconic sci-fi film, where the mothership descends upon the dramatic butte in the climactic scene.

By the way, in case you missed it, a 40th anniversary celebration for the movie was held at the base of Devils Tower in September 2017. Sponsored by the Syfy channel, it featured not only a special screening of the film, but also mashed potato sculpting, and drones buzzing overhead to simulate alien spacecraft.

#2. Over the years, Devils Tower has been known by many Native American names. What did the Arapahoe call it?

  • A. Bear’s Tipi
  • B. Mythic-Owl Mountain
  • C. Tree Rock
  • D. Ghost Mountain
  • E. Bear’s Lodge Butte

If you’ve been studying your western history, then you know the answer is (A) Bear’s Tipi.

The other names listed were used by other native tribes. In fact, more than 20 Native American tribes have a cultural affiliation with the butte, including Cheyenne, Lakota, Shoshone and Crowe. Most of these tribes consider it sacred ground.

Modern-day native tribes still use the site for ceremonial rituals, including sun dances, sweat lodges, and prayer and artifact offerings. (Visitors to the monument are asked not to touch or remove any religious artifacts.)

#3. President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devils Tower as the first national monument in 1906 because:

  • A. He wanted to make it a forest reserve
  • B. He wanted to keep people from settling the area
  • C. He wanted to prevent looting of Native American ruins and artifacts
  • D. He wanted to protect the wildlife that inhabit the area
  • E. He wanted to build a national park around it

At that time, several archaeological sites throughout the southwest were being looted for American Indian artifacts.

On June 8, 1906, Roosevelt signed The Antiquities Act, which gave him (and all future presidents) the power to declare “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” as monuments.

So the answer is (C).

#4. The name “Devils Tower” is missing an apostrophe because:

  • A. The English language did not use apostrophes in 1906
  • B. A clerical error was made at the time of designation
  • C. The name refers to more than one “devil”
  • D. Native American tribes do not use possessive forms of words
  • E. None of the above

The answer is (B). When it was officially declared a national monument, the possessive punctuation of Devil’s Tower was left out by mistake.

Not only that, it’s also a bad translation of the original Native American names given to the butte by the various tribes. Apparently, when Army Commander Richard Irving Dodge visited the area in 1875, he documented the Indian name as “Bad God Tower,” which he changed to Devil’s Tower.

Most of the native tribes find the English name to be offensive. Over the years, they’ve launched several unsuccessful efforts to change it.

–Quiz Continues Below–

Devils Tower infographic

#5. The last time Devils Tower erupted was:

  • A. In 1815, and it caused “The Year Without a Summer” in 1816
  • B. In 1980, and it killed 57 people
  • C. In 1783, and it lasted for three months
  • D. At least 10,000 years ago, according to geologists
  • E. Never

It’s never erupted; so the answer is (E). In fact, it isn’t even a volcano, although it may look like one.

Geologists aren’t really sure what it is, but most think it’s probably an “igneous intrusion” (also known as a “laccolith). That is, it formed underground from molten rock that pushed up into sedimentary rock and became solid. Over millions of years, the surrounding sedimentary rock eroded away to display the tall, grayish core within.

#6. Wildfires at Devils Tower:

  • A. Occur frequently
  • B. Have never occurred
  • C. Increased when Euro-Americans settled in the area
  • D. Are usually prescribed fires
  • E. Both C and D

Wildfire at Devils TowerAs settlers and explorers moved into the area in the latter half of the 19th century, more wildfire activity occurred. This increase can be attributed to two causes: human negligence, and conflicts between the settlers and native peoples (particularly, the Sioux).

On the other hand, prescribed fires, were first introduced to the Devils Tower National Park in 1991, with the enactment of its first Fire Management Plan.

Today, these prescribed fires are conducted every spring and fall. The native ponderosa pines depend on the fires in order to remain healthy and reproduce. (See related article, “Can You Name the Most Fire-Resistant Trees?“) Without human intervention, fires at Devils Tower would only occur every 10-15 years.

So the answer to this question is (E).

How’d You Do?

If you answered at least four of these questions correctly, consider yourself a Devils Tower expert!

If not, well … now you know.


National Park Service

Mental Floss

Indian Country Today

The Local Tourist

James Kaiser

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