Lost Gold of Devils Tower
tells of a cavern filled with gold. (Copyright
Lee Krystek, 2000)
Near the northeast corner of Wyoming is a striking
mountain of igneous rock that looks like a gigantic tree-stump.
A tree stump over a thousand feet high. Columns run vertically
up the top part of the rock like giant scratches. The name given
to the mountain by the white man was "Devils Tower."
The Indians had many names for it. One of them was "Bear
Because it is so unusual in its appearance the
tower has figured into many Native American legends and in 1977
it was used as the location for the finale of Steven Speilberg's
film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Perhaps the most widely-known legend the Native
Americans had about the tower was told by the Kiowa: There were
seven girls playing near their village when they were chased
by some bears. The girls jumped on a low rock and called to
it "Rock, take pity on us, rock save us!" The rock
heard them and grew up towards the sky. The bears jumped at
the rock scratching it, but they could not climb it. The rock
took the girls so high that they became stars. A constellation
we now call the Plediades.
There is one story, though, that does not deal
with the creation of the rock but what is below it. Years ago
a resident of that part northeast Wyoming visited Yankton, South
Dakota. While there, he showed a picture of Devils Tower to
some elderly Sioux Indians he met. One of them got very excited
when he saw the picture.
"Has a passageway been found at the base
of the tower?" he asked.
When the resident replied no, the man seemed disappointed.
With a little urging, the resident was able to get the Indian
to pass on to him the legend about the tower that he had been
told. It went something like this:
Many years before three braves had been hunting
near the tower. While exploring the rocks at the base of the
mountain, they discovered a passageway underneath it. They made
torches out of pitch pine knots for light and started exploring
the tunnel. They found the passage strewn with bones. Perhaps
human bones. At the end, the tunnel opened up into a cave with
an underground lake some 25 yards long and more than 15 yards
wide. Around the lake were large quantities of gold.
Tower in northeastern Wyoming. (Copyright
Lee Krystek, 2000)
The braves were not prepared to take the gold
with them, so they left the tunnel and hid the entrance so that
others would not find it. They intended to return to get the
gold at a later time, but never did. One of the braves, on his
deathbed, told the story to other members of his tribe and the
tale had been handed down for several generations before reaching
the old Indian.
So is there a cave with gold under Devil's tower?
Nobody has ever found one. Also the geology of the mountain,
an igneous intrusion, does not seem to make it a promising location
to find caves directly under the mountain. The tale sounds very
much like other "lost mine" stories of the Old West,
like the story of the "lost Dutchman" mine and Beale's
mine, which seem to have little factual basis.
On the other hand, the Black Hills area in which
the tower is located, has some of the largest caves in the world
underneath it, including Wind Cave and Jewel Cave.
The Black Hills area is also known for gold mining that inspired
a major gold rush in the 1880's. So maybe, like many legends,
there is some truth to the Devil's Tower story. Perhaps the
lost cavern is not underneath the tower, but nearby, waiting
for someone to find it.
Copyright Lee Krystek, 2000.
All Rights Reserved.