Great America Road Trip Day 26: Bear’s Lodge (Devil’s Tower)

Daniel and I gazed in awe at the monolith towering over us. Bear’s Lodge, also known as Devil’s Tower, is a sacred place to many Native American tribes. I felt a sense of awe and reverence for this massive geological wonder as we stood dwarfed below it far below.

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Welcome to Bear’s Lodge

We arrived at Bear’s Lodge around dinner time after driving all afternoon. Today was Friday, which didn’t bode well for a visit tomorrow. This place would would be be crawling with tourists over the weekend.

So we ate a quick dinner and went directly to the monument afterwards. No one was at the entrance booth so we drove right in and had no problem finding parking. We encountered a few other folks up there, but the crowds were manageable this late in the day.

The views of Bear’s Lodge were amazing from the parking area but I wanted more. So, we decided to hike the Devil’s Tower Trail which circles around the monument’s base.

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Welcome to Devil’s Tower National Monument

Tower Trail

Tower Trail is by far the busiest hiking path at Devils’ Tower National Monument. This 1.3-mile paved loop offers up-close views of the monument and is completely wheelchair accessible.

Normally I wouldn’t attempt a hike this popular, but the crowds had thinned considerably by the time we arrived. The sun was already fairly low in the sky as we began our pilgrimage around this sacred stone.

Daniel and I walked in a counter-clockwise direction around Bear’s Lodge, admiring the igneous rock columns from every angle. The trail also offers great views of the Belle Fourche River valley down below. The sun set about halfway through our walk, but we still had plenty of light to see by as we returned to the parking area.

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Daniel takes photos along the Tower Trail. He is very happy to have a camera again.
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Belle Fourche River Valley
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Sunset on along the Tower Trail
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Moon rise over the Belle Fourche River Valley
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Bear’s Lodge! Squee!
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Bear’s Lodge! Double squee!

A Sacred Place

As we hiked, we noticed many brightly colored cloths tied to tree branches around the monument. These prayer cloths are artifacts of a religion that is still practiced by indigenous peoples to this day. Bear’s Lodge is an important part of the religious narratives and oral traditions associated with several local Native American Tribes.

The prayer cloths are beautiful and I was tempted to take a photo, until I learned that visitors had been asked not to. So I put away my camera and admired them with my eyeballs instead. You’ll just have to just go and see them for yourself someday.

Considering the sacred nature of the Monument, the official name “Devil’s Tower” seems incongruous. Local peoples have always referred to this place as “Bear’s Lodge” or “Bear’s Teepee” or “Bear’s House”. The name “Devil’s Tower” is a controversial one and is deeply offensive to the indigenous peoples who hold this place sacred.

Attempts to change the name back to “Bear’s Lodge’ have been unsuccessful thus far. Hopefully, that will change soon.

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Bear’s Lodge at the sunset
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The golden hour

Little Bighorn

On our way to Bear’s Lodge, we stopped for a quick visit to the Little Bighorn National Monument. This area memorializes one of the last armed efforts by Native Americans to preserve their way of life.

I’ve heard of the Battle of Little Bighorn, of course, and of Custer’s famous last stand. Here, Custer and the 7th Calvary Regiment of the U.S. Army were soundly defeated by the combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes.

The name “Custer’s Last Stand” is a bit of a misnomer though. It makes it sound as if though Custer was the defender here. Custer and his men were the ones perpetuating genocide against indigenous peoples who were trying to defend their homeland.

Little Bighorn National Monument only bothered to tell one side of this story until very recently. In 1999, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Indian Memorial that is now located near Last Stand Hill. The Indian Memorial is a beautiful tribute to each of the tribes that fought in the in the battle here.

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The Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Monument, as viewed from Last Stand Hill
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Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn Monument
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Memorial for the 7th Calvary of the U.S. Army
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Markers on Last Stand Hill show where members of the 7th Calvary fell in battle
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This marker shows where a Cheyenne warrior fell in battle

Where are we now?

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We are at Bear’s Lodge (aka Devil’s Tower)

Date: July 31
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 26

Starting Location: Crow Country, MT
Ending Location: Devil’s Tower KOA Campground
Miles Traveled: 277.1
Total Trip Mileage: 2727.1

For more details on our Great American (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

 

2 thoughts

  1. I love that you took the time to cover the importance of using the indigenous peoples names of the lands that were taken from them. Many people do not know the true name Bears Lodge

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