DEVILS TOWER, Wyo. (KEVN) -- Rock climbing routes on the southwest face and the southwest edges of Devils Tower summit will be temporarily closed effective immediately to protect nesting Peregrine and Prairie Falcons. The closure is implemented annually to provide the falcons with an undisturbed nesting location during this critical courtship and nest-selection period.
The presence of climbers near falcon nests can be distressing to parent birds and disturbance from climbing activities may force falcons to abandon eggs or chicks. The closure is also implemented to protect climbers, as falcons are known to defensively dive in order to protect their nests. Climbers are asked to report any defensive falcon behavior to park staff.
There are 49 climbing routes affected by the closure between “Good Holds for Godzilla” and “Accident Victim” (numbers 135 – 182 in the Devils Tower National Monument Climbing Handbook). Route closures will be posted at the climber registration kiosk near the visitor center and along climber approach trails. Over one hundred climbing routes remain open for climbing.
Climbing routes will remain closed until the young falcons fledge and are no longer dependent on the nest location or if the nesting falcons move to another location. Park staff monitor falcon activity and the closure area may be moved, extended, or rescinded depending on nesting and fledgling activity.
“The closure of these routes to protect falcons is strictly enforced,” said Alex Heyer, Chief Ranger. “Climbers play a critical role in the success of falcon nesting at Devils Tower. Please report any nests or observed falcon behavior to a park ranger and remember that all climbers must register before beginning an ascent of the Tower.”
In addition, the annual voluntary June climbing closure at Devils Tower will begin on June 1 and run through June 30. During the month, visitors are strongly discouraged from climbing, out of respect for the cultural and spiritual significance of the Tower.
The closure zone includes all areas inside the loop of the Tower Trail. This voluntary closure was an agreement reached during the development of the park’s Climbing Management Plan by a work group that included representatives from climbing organizations and American Indian tribes. The Final Climbing Management Plan (1995) established the June closure as a way to balance the cultural significance of the Tower with its history as a unique world-class rock climbing destination. The Access Fund, a nonprofit organization working to maintain access to climbing areas and protect the climbing environment, fully supports the voluntary climbing closure in support of these interests.
Over 20 American Indian tribes consider Devils Tower a sacred place. Activities and ceremonies occur in the park throughout the year; however, the month of June is an especially significant time for traditional tribal ceremonial expression. Climbers are asked to consider tribal perspectives and to seek out other climbing in the region during the month of June.