National Monuments


Tomorrow, the first day of winter, we’re kicking off our WINTER BUCKET LIST series!

Each day of winter, we’ll feature BLM-managed locations that you should add to your bucket list - for spectacular winter scenery, unique features and events, and even a few warmer locations for a winter getaway. #SeeBLM

Bouzov Castle, 

Located between Hvozdek and Bouzov, Moravia, Czech Republic.

Bouzov Castle (Czech: Hrad Bouzov) built on a hill is an early 14th-century fortress first mentioned in 1317. In 1558 the castle burned down. In 1696 the barony was bought by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. The Grand Master from 1799 to 1839, Archduke Eugen Habsburg, decided to rebuild it in a Romantic, Neo-Gothic style.

Today an eight-storey watchtower dominates the complex. The buildings are grouped around it in the form of a horseshoe. Two bridges, ending with a short drawbridge, span the deep dry moat around the castle. Since 1999 the castle has been a national monument.

America’s first national monument, Devils Tower is a geologic feature that protrudes out of the rolling prairie in Wyoming. David Lane captured this amazing 16-image panorama of the monument illuminated by the Milky Way and green airglow. Of visiting Devils Tower, David says: “From ancient stories of the Pleiades taking refuge at the top to the generations of Native Americas that held it sacred, it had a deep sense of age and a stoic nature that impressed me. It’s so unexpected, so large in person, so steeped in traditions.”

California Coastal National Monument at Crescent City, California — Bob Wick, Instagram Guest Photographer 

About the photo: Using a very slow shutter speed (several seconds or more) softens moving water and helps convey a sense of movement.  In addition to using this technique on rivers and waterfalls, it works great to capture ocean and large lake waves as shown here on California’s far north Coast. This image was taken in Crescent City, the northernmost town along the 1,100 mile California Coastal National Monument. The National Monument and the tall trees in nearby Redwood National Park make this a photographers paradise.

Camera Settings: Lens focal length: 70mm, aperture: f22, shutter speed: 6 seconds, ISO 50

Happy birthday, Badlands National Park in South Dakota. First established as a national monument in 1939, Badlands was redesignated as a national park in 1978. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.

Photo by Harlan Humphrey (


The Legend of Devil’s Tower

Brought to international attention by the hugely popular movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Devils Tower in Wyoming has been a sacred place of numerous Indian tribes since prehistoric times. The Tower also seems to attract many UFOs that have been seen at its summit.

Various legends are told about the origin of the tower. One story concerns a group of seven small girls pursued by a giant bear. According to this legend, the girls were one day playing in the forest. A great bear came upon them and gave chase. Recognizing the hopelessness of their situation, the girls jumped upon a low rock and prayed loudly to the Great Spirit to save them. Immediately the small rock began to grow upwards, lifting the seven girls higher and higher into the sky. The angry bear jumped up against the sides of the growing tower and left deep claw marks. The tower continued to soar towards the sky until the girls were pushed up into the heavens, where they became the seven stars of the Pleiades.

Long an inspiration and attraction for nature lovers, mountain climbers, and UFO enthusiasts, Devil’s Tower was the first site to be named a National Monument in the United States. It received the honor in 1906, just thirteen years after the first recorded ascent of the mountain by William Rogers and W.L. Ripley in 1893.


Devils Tower National Monument, Crook County, Wyoming

From the time I was a small child, I had dreamed of seeing Devils Tower, America’s first national monument. As a life-long geology buff, I had extensively studied and pondered the 1,267 foot-tall volcanic monolith. I also knew that the Lakota and other Plains Indian tribes of the region had long-held the towering rock sacred in their ancient folklore. It had taken on an almost mythical status in my mind’s eye and that image was further enhanced by its prominent role in the 1977 Stephen Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where it served as a landing pad for alien space crafts. 

Rolling across the prairie lands of the Black Hills of eastern Wyoming in an RV, I could feel my heart beginning to race with excitement as we exited off of I-90 West onto US-14W. I could tell by the map that we were getting close. Shortly after turning on WY-24E, I had looked down to get my camera ready, and when I looked up, there it was! I was immediately struck by the fact that it looked like it had been dropped in from another planet. Bearing absolutely nothing in common with the dark red and yellow sandstone sedimentary rock that it rests on, Devils Tower, formed of a rare igneous stone called Phonolite, was everything I had always hoped it would be: striking, mysterious, and awe-inspiring. Even the moon showed up to make an appearance in the blue sky framing the giant rock. At that moment, I understood why this pIace had fascinated humans for generations. 

It was the beginning of October, and as luck would have it, near the end of the tourist season.  We rolled up to the KOA Campground which is nestled along the banks of the winding Belle Fourche River and there was not one RV in sight! We pulled in and parked and were soon greeted by campground host, Ogdon Driskell, who told us that he ran the Campstool Ranch on which the campground sits. The ranch has been in his family for six generations (His wife, Zannie, is the postmaster at Devils Tower). 

The next morning when I opened the door of the RV, there was Devils Tower right in front of my eyes! WOW! What a view! Was I lucky, or what? Anxious to explore, my friends and I set out to the park. Along the way, we passed several prairie dog towns and I swear the little creatures seemed as happy to be there as we were. As we made our way onto the hiking trails around the base of the tower we could see several climbers scaling the monolith. I was certain that they had much more courage than I did! Continuing on, we came upon an area where Native American prayer offerings of cloth and prayer bundles hung in the pine trees. As we paused in silent reverence, I pondered to myself if we were really just trespassers on hallowed ground. But as a student of history, I felt like it was my job to document this place and pass my knowledge along to others, so they would have a better understanding of the peoples and cultures that existed here on these plains centuries before the White man arrived in America. And, I wanted to share the wonders of this amazing place with others, even if it was just through my recollections and digital photographs, neither of which really does it justice.  


Story and photos by Clif Doyal

Today President Obama signed a proclamation establishing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in south-central New Mexico. By establishing the monument, the President permanently protected nearly 500,000 acres to preserve the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of the area for the benefit of all Americans. A recent independent study found that a new national monument could generate $7.4 million in new economic activity annually from new visitors and business opportunities while preserving access for sportsmen, ranchers, and recreational users.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management