This year, Mount Rushmore National Memorial turns 75! The memorial, a symbol of American freedom, is a must-see and a great reason to visit South Dakota.
The iconic memorial that has the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota (SD). At the time of my visit, I was living in Denver, Colorado. I wanted to spend a weekend away and SD was a perfect destination since it was only a few hours away. I packed up Betsy and started the five and a half hour drive. The trip up to SD went smoothly (unlike the road trip from hell I would have just two months later) and I got to see some picturesque scenery as well as my first wild buffalo.
After spending the night in a small motel in Hot Springs, we arrived at Mount Rushmore at around 8 a.m. What’s really cool is that you can start to see George Washington as you drive up the road to the memorial.
Even though we were there early, there were already a few people walking around inside. It never felt crowded though. We walked straight through the Avenue of Flags (which represents all 56 U.S. states and territories) and on to the Grand View Terrace.
There are also some trails that you can walk on to get different angles of the monument. Oh, and as much as I looked, I did not see either Nicolas Cage or any sign of The Lost City of Gold…
After we got our fill with the four presidents, we stepped into the small museum which explains how and why the memorial was built. We learned a lot of interesting things and thought we’d share some of our favorites…
10 Facts You Might Not Know About Mount Rushmore
- The idea for a sculpture in the Black Hills was suggested in 1923, the first drilling and carving of the mountain began in 1927, and the final drilling took place in 1941.
- Nearly 400 men and women helped to build the memorial in one way or another.
- Every day, workers climbed 700 stairs to the top of the mountain to punch-in on the time clock.
- Although 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite, not one person died during the 14 years of construction.
- Mountain goats are often seen around the monument. These are not native to the area; they were a gift from Canada to a nearby park. The mountain goats escaped, headed north, and took up residence on the mountain.
- The faces of Mount Rushmore are 60 feet high.
- Originally, the figures where supposed to be carved from the waist up but plans changed due to lack of funding.
- There is a small room carved into the mountain behind Lincoln’s head. It is inaccessible to visitors, but it holds records of how and why Mount Rushmore was carved.
- In 1935, Eleanor Roosevelt and congresswoman Caroline O’Day proposed that Susan B. Anthony also be carved into the mountain. After two years of campaigning, Congress dropped the bill.
- Censors have been placed all over the sculpture to detect any kind of movement (even a movement of less than 0.0001 inches) in order to quickly identify any potential issues.
We thought visiting the monument was really cool and would encourage anyone in the area to do so as well. If you are planning a trip, here are a few helpful tips:
- – The park itself opens up at 5 a.m. in case you want to catch an awesome sunrise. The Visitor Center opens at 8 a.m. daily and closes at 5 p.m. from October to May, 10 p.m. from May to August, and 9 p.m. from August to September. The only day they are closed is December 25th.
- – There is no entrance fee to enter Mount Rushmore. However, there is a parking fee of $10 for private vehicles.
- – Keep in mind that the sculptures look different depending on the time of day. We hear that it’s pretty amazing to see them lit up at night too.
- – Unless you’re planning on going on any of the nearby trails, you can wear whatever shoes you feel comfortable in. We would recommend sneakers/boots for the trails though.
- – On site is Carvers Café, which has a pretty big selection of food (we had a buffalo burger). The best thing about the cafe, however, is the awesome view of the monument.
- – Don’t bother bringing your drone; they can’t be flown in any National Park.
- – When you’re finished at Mount Rushmore, don’t rush off! There are a lot of cool attractions nearby like the National Presidential Wax Museum, Wind Cave National Park, and the Mammoth Site.
Oh, and just a quick side note… The National Park Service is also celebrating a birthday! It turned 100 on August 25, 2016. They are celebrating all year long so make sure you get out there and #findyourpark.
13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
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