Crazy Horse Memorial
The world’s largest mountain sculpture, Crazy Horse Memorial, is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota near the town of Custer. The magnitude of this memorial rivals the significant accomplishments of Crazy Horse, a legendary Native American leader.
In 1939, Chief Standing Bear wrote a letter to Horczac Ziolkowski, an assistant sculptor working on the carving of Mount Rushmore, asking him to visit the Black Hills and carve a mountain memorial honoring Native Americans. Chief Standing Bear’s letter to Ziolkowski stated, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.” The carving of the Crazy Horse Memorial officially began on June 3, 1948.
In 1949, Ziolkowski decided to devote the rest of his life to forging the Crazy Horse Memorial. From 1949 until his death in 1982, Ziolkowski drilled, bulldozed, and dynamited nearly 7.4 million tons of rock from the site.
The legacy of Crazy Horse Memorial did not end with the death of Ziolkowski. Today, seven of Ziolkowski’s children and his widow Ruth continue with Horczac’s dream of completing the memorial. When finished, the memorial will be 641 feet wide—nearly the length of two football fields—and 563 feet high. By comparison, the entire carving of Mount Rushmore could fit in the area of Crazy Horse’s face and flowing hair.
More than 1.2 million people visit Crazy Horse Memorial each year. Many visitors make the pilgrimage annually to observe the progression of the carving. The face of Crazy Horse, measuring 87.5 feet high, was completed in 1998 and generated much enthusiasm among visitors.
The Crazy Horse Memorial project is funded entirely by visitor’s admission, private donations, and fundraising events. Each June, visitors to the site can participate in the Crazy Horse Volksmarch. The Volksmarch is an organized 6.2-mile wilderness hike through the surrounding areas of the site, with Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm as the turn-around point of the hike. Crazy Horse Volksmarch is the only time of the year when visitors are permitted to walk at the carving site. Crazy Horse Volksmarch draws approximately 15,000 participants each year, and is the most popular organized hike in the U.S.
In addition to the mountain sculpture, Crazy Horse Memorial also has a 40,000-square-foot welcome center with theatres, and is home to the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and the Indian Museum of North America. While at the site, visitors may also enjoy viewing Ziolkowski’s log home studio and workshop, indoor and outdoor art galleries, and the museum gift shop.
While in the area, visitors are sure to enjoy Mount Rushmore, located just 17 miles northwest of Crazy Horse Memorial.