With so many items on our “things to see and do” list we sure were glad we had opted for staying eight nights in the Black Hills. I suspect most tourists come to the Black Hills to gaze upon the granite carvings at Mount Rushmore and Thunderhead Mountain and we were among those tourists.
We arrived at 6:00 a.m. to get a jump on the crowds (added bonus: no parking fee at that hour). For a little over an hour, we had the run of the place to ourselves except for a few couples and small family groups that had similar plans. Awe-inspiring is what came to mind as we walked the Avenue of Flags on our way to the Grand View Terrace and stared up at the granite structure that depicts George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea to create an attraction that would bring visitors to his State of South Dakota and Gutzon Borglum was chosen as the sculptor. Although Robinson initially envisioned the depiction of western heroes such as Lewis & Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Borglum selected the four presidents he viewed as instrumental in preserving the United States and expanding its territory in the West.
Borglum met with Doane Robinson in 1924 and 1925 Mount Rushmore was selected as the location. Construction work began in 1927. Working beside Borglum until his death in March 1941, was Borglum’s son, James Lincoln Borglum. Lincoln Borglum took on the responsibility of sculptor when his father died and congress declared the monument completed as is on October 31, 1941. The nation had to push aside artistic endeavors as it prepared for World War II.
The Presidential Trail gives visitors a close-up perspective of the memorial, like this picture of Washington through a narrow crevice in the rocks.
The Presidential Trail is 0.6 miles long and contains 422 steps. A boardwalk with railings prevents visitors from straying from the trail.
The amphitheater provides visitors with a different perspective of the memorial by illuminating it each night. We didn’t take advantage of the night-time event but we talked with other people who did and they were glad for the experience.
Poor Teddy was in shadow most of the time we were at the memorial, but I did manage this close up that shows how the sculptor depicted the president’s glasses.
Abraham’s close up shows how catch-lights were created to bring out the eyes.
One of the tasks of the National Park Service and the Mount Rushmore Society is to preserve the memorial from damage. As with any mountain, wind, snow, rain, heat and cold can cause erosion and change the shape of any stone. A monitoring system, attached to various sections of the memorial, records the air and surface temperature and detects movement of less than 0.0001 inches. Workers seal cracks with silicone and sprinkle granite dust to camouflage any repairs. The diligence to preservation should maintain the structure in good condition for generations.
We visited Mount Rushmore a few days later, paying the $5.00 parking fee ($10.00 for non-seniors) and contending with the crowds. We wanted to see what the visitor center had to offer and I had to get my National Park Passport stamped. Although the crowds were not too difficult to navigate, I much preferred our visit in the early morning when we didn’t have to vie for position to take photos.
To learn more about Mount Rushmore, including park details and history of the monument, visit the Mount Rushmore National Park website.
Next up? Crazy Horse Memorial.