Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Each year, more than 3 million travelers visit South Dakota’s top attraction, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, located 25 miles southwest of Rapid City, South Dakota. The majestic granite sculpture of Mount Rushmore commemorates four powerful presidents who helped shape our nation: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Visitors to Mount Rushmore are awed by this majestic memorial and are touched by this symbol of our nation’s freedom.
The History of Mt. Rushmore
Duane Robinson, a historian attempting to promote tourism to the Black Hills, was the first to conceptualize the memorial. In 1924, Robinson began to solicit Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of the Confederate Memorial Carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia, persuading Borglum to visit South Dakota’s Black Hills. Borglum originally intended to carve the memorial on the granite pillars of the Needles, but after further evaluation determined the site would not withstand the sculpting process. Borglum later decided that Mount Rushmore, because of its maximum exposure to the sun, would be the perfect site for the sculpture. Upon seeing Mount Rushmore, Borglum declared, “America will march along that skyline.” In 1925, Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission, and work began on October 4, 1927.
For the next 14 years, Borglum and a team of 400 workers sculpted four, 60-foot high carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The original design, depicting the Presidents from head to waist, was not completed due to lack of funding. The cost of the project was nearly one million dollars.
Visiting the Memorial
Visitors to South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore National Memorial can participate in a fully accessible ranger-guided, 30-minute walk to the base of the of the mountain carving, and can also learn about the sculpting of the structure, the tools used, and hear stories told by actual site workers at the “Sculptor Studio Talk.” Leading to the trails is the Avenue of Flags, where flags of the 56 states and territories fly overhead. From May to September, evening visitors to the park’s outdoor amphitheater enjoy an inspirational talk highlighting patriotism and the nation’s history, view the film “Freedom: America’s Lasting Legacy,” and witness the Evening Sculpture Lighting Ceremony. The Lincoln Borglum Museum features numerous exhibits, including a model of Borglum’s original design, a film, and interpretive talks.
If you are fortunate enough to visit Mt. Rushmore over the 4th of July, a spectacular fireworks display commemorating our independence blasts off over the mountain and will leave you amazed.
Other Places of Interest near Mount Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore is right in the heart of the toursit area of the Black Hills of South Dakota. This leaves you with unlimited activities to do and places to see. While in the area, tourists can visit Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, Devil’s Tower National Monument, and the Minutemen Missile National Historic Site. Each of these spectacular sites is within easy driving distance of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Further, the historic towns of Keystone, Hill City, Custer, and Deadwood are all within reasonable driving distance.