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Mon May 16, 2016, 08:19 AM

 

How The West Was, 1: Spearfish Canyon and Devil’s Tower

Crystal Dancer and I departed east-central Wisconsin early on the morning of May 4 to tour parts of the American West – Spearfish Canyon, Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. We got on I-90, crossed the Mighty Mississippi into Minnesota near LaCrosse, Wisconsin, then climbed out of the broad river valley and onto the Great Plains. Upon reaching the top, our GPS indicated the next turn was 665 miles away. Obviously, the tech who programmed it knew nothing about my family curse: Walnut-sized bladders.

When we crossed from Minnesota into South Dakota, Crystal Dancer switched us from Ziggy Marley to some tunes that helped set the scene: Roy Rogers singing “Don’t Fence Me In,” The Sons of the Pioneers doing “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and a handful of Marty Robbins ballads.

We finally arrived in Spearfish, SD at about 6:00 p.m., checked into our hotel and had a delightful meal at a local Mexican place, The Guadalajara. Great food and a helpful waitstaff. When we asked where we might take an evening walk our waiter recommended Spearfish City Park, along Spearfish Creek. This is a beautiful spot, and home to a surprise gem.

Established in 1896, D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives is one of the oldest operating hatcheries in the country. Dedicated to fish culture and resource management, the hatchery was constructed to propagate, stock, and establish trout populations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The hatchery building looks much the same as it did when completed in 1899, and its Victorian architecture became the standard for hatchery buildings throughout the country. It also holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.



In the old days, this rail car was used to transport fish. Beautifully restored and preserved, it serves as another reminder of past times.



There’s an underwater trout viewing area, but it wasn’t accessible when we were there. Seeing the rainbows and browns from above, however, was quite the deal for this old fisherman. Trout are not native to South Dakota, but readily took to the cold clear waters. Fresh water shrimp and other crustaceans provide ample food sources.

Crappie (pardon the pun) pic of trout in a hatchery pond ...


Signage at the fish hatchery indicated that the creek is unusual in that it freezes from the bottom up! I’d never heard of such a thing.

(Not relevant but interesting side-note. Spearfish holds the world record for the fastest recorded temperature change. On the morning of January 22, 1943 the temperature in Spearfish was −4°F. A Chinook wind picked up speed, and two minutes later the temperature was +45 °F. The 49 °F rise in two minutes set a world record that still holds. By 9:00 a.m., the temperature had risen to 54 °F. Suddenly, the chinook died down and the temperature tumbled back to −4 °F. The 58 °F drop took only 27 minutes. The sudden change in temperatures caused glass windows to crack. Source.)

The next morning we were up early, had breakfast and headed up beautiful Spearfish Canyon. We were immediately disappointed because the creek at the bottom of the canyon was nearly a dry gulch – just a trickle of water ran down the rocky creekbed. Obviously the waterfalls for which the canyon was known were going to be a major let-down. However, as we proceeded farther and farther up the canyon, the water level actually increased! The place seems to defy the laws of physics! When we got to Bridal Veil Falls (one of many falls across America bearing that name) it was as beautiful as we could have hoped.



Turns out there are five miles of tunnels siphoning water out of the creek and into hydro-electic turbines. Very clever if a bit disconcerting when one doesn’t know this!

There’s also an explanation for the creek freezing from the bottom up instead of icing over. This unusual phenomenon occurs due to the very fast rate at which the creek flows. This speed prevents ice from forming except along the bottom of the creek bed where friction and turbulence allow the water to slow down long enough to freeze. Since the creek continues to flow atop this ice, the water level of the creek gradually rises as more ice accumulates on the bottom, in some cases causing flooding on the north side of town where the channel is not as deep.

Steep rock walls form the canyon, and they stood out beautifully on this crisp, clear morning.



Heading up farther we next encountered Roughlock Falls, a series of cataracts coursing through moss-covered granite. Watercress flourishes in the crystal-clear creek.



Finally at the top, we took a short hike to a viewing spot for Spearfish Falls, the highest of the three. At the foot of this falls, the water joins another stream and the resulting flow was a torrent. Pretty amazing, especially since we still hadn’t learned of the hydro-electric tunnels.



After leaving Spearfish we crossed into Wyoming and stopped at the State Visitor’s Center. A helpful staffer recommended both a back route to Devil’s Tower and the “most scenic” route to Cody and the east entrance to Yellowstone. She also offered us cookies; the peanut butter were the best I’ve ever had!

We headed out the “back way” and proceeded through rolling hills. Suddenly, the unmistakable feature appeared …

Devil’s Tower from the “back side.”


We took a couple pics, then went around to the “front” and drove up to the Visitor’s Center. Devil’s Tower is truly a sight to behold.



It’s difficult to describe this geologic oddity. The tower was “intruded” within an old volcano, igneous rock much harder than the surrounding sedemintary rock formed, then was exposed as the Belle Fourche River gradually eroded the softer structures over and around it. The columns you see are 4, 5, 6 and 7-sided (most often six) and rise 867 feet from base to summit.

Its size is impressive. Can you see the climbers in this close-up?



How about in this close-up?



Before leaving, we ran into another pair of climbers who told us it took them seven hours to ascend to within 200 feet of the summit, then descend again. I asked if we could borrow their ropes and other gear for a pic, but they had no sense of humor.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Best Deal in America

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Reply How The West Was, 1: Spearfish Canyon and Devil’s Tower (Original post)
Scuba May 2016 OP
madokie May 2016 #1
N_E_1 for Tennis May 2016 #2
Omaha Steve May 2016 #3
jwirr May 2016 #12
Staph May 2016 #4
Roland99 May 2016 #5
Omaha Steve May 2016 #8
Roland99 May 2016 #13
lakeguy May 2016 #6
mountain grammy May 2016 #7
yuiyoshida May 2016 #9
PufPuf23 May 2016 #10
jwirr May 2016 #11
GreenEyedLefty May 2016 #14
Liberal_Dog May 2016 #15
MerryBlooms May 2016 #16

Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 08:30 AM

1. Thanks

I think you've found your calling. Traveling, taking pictures and writing about what you see and experience.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 08:39 AM

2. Wonderful pictures...

And great descriptive commentary. Hope you have an awesome time, looking forward to the next installment.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 09:12 AM

3. The Devils Tower legends and early history - as told by the American Indian Tribes.


Marta, our youngest, and I were there 25 years ago.

K&R!

OS

http://www.sylvanrocks.com/devils_tower_climbing/legends_history

The Devils Tower legends and early history - how it got its name, and how it was formed as told by the American Indian Tribes.

Wyoming is an incredible place and Devils Tower is part of what makes it “like no other place on earth, ” at least that is what the Wyoming license plates say. Devils Tower was made famous in modern times by the 1977 movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but for many moons before that, tribal people had been visiting it, and regarded the area as a sacred site. The legends surrounding the Tower are many, and the stories were no doubt passed down through the generations around the fire.

Many tribes from all over America consider the site of Devils Tower to be sacred. "Devils Tower" is a name the white man gave the formation. It was named in 1875 when a mis-interpretation from Colonel Richard Irving Dodge's expedition somehow translated the native name as "Bad God's Tower," and this eventually led to the name Devils Tower. It has many tribal names. The Lakota indians have their own names for it such as Mato Tipila, which means “Bear Lodge.” Other names from other American Indian tribes are Grey Horn Butte, He Hota Paha, Bear Rock or Bear Mountain, Tree Rock, and Grizzly Bear Lodge to list a few. The bear theme comes from a common story about Devils Tower. The Legend of its creation goes something like this…..

Long ago, two young Indian boys found themselves lost on the great prairie. They had played together one afternoon and had wandered far out of the village. Then they had shot their bows still farther out into the sagebrush. Then they had heard a small animal make a noise and had gone to investigate. They had come to a stream with many colorful pebbles and followed that for a while. They had come to a hill and wanted to see what was on the other side. On the other side they saw a herd of antelope and, of course, had to track them for a while. When they got hungry and thought it was time to go home, the two boys found that they didn't know where they were. They started off in the direction where they thought their village was, but only got farther and farther away from it. At last they curled up beneath a tree and went to sleep.
They got up the next morning and walked some more, still traveling the wrong way. They ate some wild berries and dug up wild turnips, found some chokecherries, and drank water from streams. For three days they walked toward the west. They were footsore, but they survived. How they wished that their parents, or elder brothers and sisters or tribe members would find them as they walked on what is now the plains of Wyoming. But nobody did.
On the fourth day the boys suddenly had a feeling that they were being followed. They looked around and in the distance saw Mato, the bear. This was no ordinary bear, but a giant bear, so huge that the boys would make only a small mouthful for him. He had smelled the boys and came in search of that mouthful. He came so close that the earth trembled with each step he took.
 The boys started running, looking for a place to hide, they found none. The grizzly was much, much faster than they. They stumbled, and the bear was almost upon them. They could see his red, wide-open jaws full of enormous teeth. They could smell his hot breath.
 The boys were old enough to have learned to pray, and the called upon Wakan Tanka, the Creator: "Tunkashila, Grandfather, have pity, save us." 
All at once the earth shook and began to rise. The boys rose with it. Out of the earth came a cone of rock going up, up, up until it rose more than a thousand feet high. And the boys were on top of it.
 Mato the bear was disappointed to see his meal disappearing into the clouds. This grizzly was so huge that he could almost reach to the top of the rock when he stood on his hind legs. Almost, but not quite. His claws were as large as a tipi's lodge poles. Frantically Mato dug his claws into the side of the rock, trying to get up, trying to eat those boys. As he did so, he made big scratches in the sides of the towering rock. He tried every spot, every side. He scratched up the rock all around, but it was no use. They boys watched him wearing himself out, getting tired, giving up. They finally saw him going away, a huge, growling, grunting mountain disappearing over the horizon.
 The boys were saved by Wanblee, the eagle, who has always been a friend to our people. It was the great eagle that let the boys grab hold of him and carried them safely back to their village.


MORE at link.

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Response to Omaha Steve (Reply #3)

Mon May 16, 2016, 11:41 AM

12. I have seen bear claws on trees in our area - I can see where

this legend came from.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 09:28 AM

4. Please, please, continue your posts on the trip!

I haven't been out that way in five or six years, and your pictures bring up wonderful childhood memories.

However, inquiring minds want to know -- did you stop at Wall Drug?


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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 10:15 AM

5. Nice pics! But now I'm hungry for mashed potatoes for some reason....



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Response to Roland99 (Reply #5)

Mon May 16, 2016, 10:45 AM

8. hhhmmm




OR



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Response to Omaha Steve (Reply #8)

Mon May 16, 2016, 06:56 PM

13. HA! The former, certainly. Forgot all about the latter!

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 10:23 AM

6. nice pics!

i went to devil's tower once but my photos are long gone by now

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 10:32 AM

7. Thanks for posting.

Some of my favorite places in America, but never knew about the fish hatchery. Will be sure to check it out when we visit this fall.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 10:55 AM

9. you're pics have

crappyed out!

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 11:08 AM

10. Interesting post and pictures.

Keep on having a good time!

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 11:25 AM

11. Beautiful. The sides of Devil's Tower look like the bark on a

huge tree. I was thinking how big that forest must have been.

Thank you.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 08:30 PM

14. Great pics!

Devils Tower is truly one of the most sacred and spiritual places I have ever visited.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Mon May 16, 2016, 08:36 PM

15. K & R

Thanks for posting these pics.

It must have been a really cool trip.

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Response to Scuba (Original post)

Sat May 28, 2016, 07:32 AM

16. Rec & Kick. Wow, unbelievable.

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