I’m not entirely sure where the fascination originated, but for the last few years Mount Rushmore has been on the top of my bucket list. When we landed a project in eastern Wyoming, a mere hour or so away, I knew my time had come. So last month when I saw an opportunity to extend a work trip, I took it. My dad and brother (never ones to miss out on a road trip) joined me and together we set off to see the famous mountainside.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located amongst the Black Hills of South Dakota. It features the faces of four U.S. Presidents – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln – carved into the granite of face of Mount Rushmore (hence the name). Construction of the memorial began in 1927 and ended in 1941. Although the original design called for each president to be depicted from head to waist, a lack of funding forced construction to end. These four presidents were selected (so the story goes) to represent the first 130 years of American history because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.
I did enough research prior to our visit to know that the Mount Rushmore Memorial was relatively small (covering approximately 2 miles total), but I did overhear some other visitors who seemed a bit surprised. The National Park Service, who is in charge of Mount Rushmore, has built a lovely entryway with gift shops, a cafeteria, etc. and there are a couple of trails that lead around the mountainside giving visitors different scenic views of the sculpture. There’s also the Sculptor’s Studio, featuring a display of unique plaster models and tools related to the sculpting, which looks really neat (it was sadly still closed during our visit – it opens in June).
Overall, I was quite satisfied with our visit. It truly is an amazing sight to see, particularly when you realize just how large the heads are (60 feet!). I found it to be a fascinating feat of engineering and quite patriotic! We spent an afternoon wandering around, enjoying the trails, and stalking the wildlife for photos (smile). We didn’t make it back for the night show where they turn on the lights and have a short program, but I hear it’s pretty spectacular. The ice cream, however, is a definite must for any visit (it’s made from Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe)!
The memorial itself is free, but parking cost $11. Your parking pass is, however, good for a prolonged period of time in case you want to visit during the day and return at night for the lighting ceremony.