National Park Service at 100: Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Rapid City

Mount Rushmore is one of the most beautiful memorials in America

Four great American presidents look out over the South Dakota landscape at Mount Rushmore. Their view is as amazing as the view they provide the millions of people who visit the national monument annually.

Mount Rushmore is located near Keystone, in the beautiful Black Hills region of western South Dakota. The tree-lined hills are called the Black Hills because from the distance, the hills provide an ebony view. The Lakota Sioux have long believed the area has spiritual meaning and is the birth of civilization. Mount Rushmore was known as the Six Grandfathers by the Lakota.

The monument – which honors George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – is located there because the artist felt the site provided the best foundation for the project and would take in the most sunlight during the day by facing southeast.

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Gutzon Borglum bust

Mount Rushmore was built between 1927 and 1941. Gutzon Borglum was the artist behind the project. The one-time resident of Fremont, Nebraska, died before the project was completed. His son, Lincoln, managed the work to completion.

Gutzon Borglum wasn’t without his critics. His beliefs made him a good choice to design Stone Mountain in Georgia, as a tribute to the Confederacy from the US Civil War.

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Each President’s head is 60 feet tall

Each of the presidents’ head is 60 feet tall. The four presidents on Mount Rushmore represent four important periods of the nation’s history – birth, growth, development and preservation. Washington was the country’s first president. Jefferson expanded the country with the Louisiana Purchase. Roosevelt fought monopolies so the country’s economy could grow. Lincoln kept the country together following the Civil War.

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The Presidents face southeast

As you enter the memorial, you’re greeted by an avenue of state flags. Irony would have us stopping underneath the Nebraska flag to look for it. What were the odds?

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Avenue of state flags

The national memorial is a beautiful area. It offers more than just a view of Mount Rushmore. Visitors can walk a trail that takes you fairly close to the monument.

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Close-up view of the memorial along a trail

The trail offers some great views of nature, as well. Critters, such as squirrels, rabbits and ground squirrels, may scurry in front of you or along the nearby trees.

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Trees are beautiful along the trail

The trees are beautiful. You can walk among Ponderosa pines, as well as other types of trees. Tree trunks provide an opportunity to look at the rings on the trunk to check the age of a tree.

The trail we took led us to the artist’s work area. Nearby was a piece of equipment Borglum and his crew used to help carve the busts. It’s amazing to learn that no one died working during the actual carving project.

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Equipment used to help clear rock

When you visit the memorial, stay for the night presentation. About 8 p.m., a park ranger will host a show that features a short film, a service to recognize current and past military members, and then the lighting of the Presidents. Lisa and I agreed that the ceremony sent chills down our spines. If you don’t feel patriotic going in, you will coming out of there.

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Mount Rushmore lit up at night against the darkness of the Black Hills

We had a wonderful experience at Mount Rushmore. It was our second time there together, but my third visit. But, it was our first visit in probably almost 15 years. The area has changed, with the development of better walking trails, the lighting show and a few other items.

We definitely recommend visiting Mount Rushmore when in the Rapid City area. We are already planning a trip back to the area next year. In addition, we are thinking more in early spring or fall, so you get a different take on the region.

For more information on Mount Rushmore and the area, please visit www.visitrapidcity.com or www.nps.gov/moru.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Rapid City visitors bureau and the National park service for the complimentary parking. However, all views and opinions are ours.

Comments

  1. I love the avenue of the flags. So beautiful!

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