More and more we sensed that we were creating a truly great thing, and after a while all of us old hands became truly dedicated to it and determined to stick to it.Otto “Red” Anderson, driller and assistant carver
With nearly three million visitors from all over the world coming to Mount Rushmore each year, we knew we wanted to be there — standing in awe of the art and craftsmanship involved in creating one of the most visited sites in America.
From South Dakota Highway 244 leading to Mount Rushmore, we caught side glimpses of George Washington. Washington’s was the first figure started and the most prominent visage of the four presidents memorialized in an arrangement conceived by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson and executed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum.
The majestic walk through the entrance of Mount Rushmore and the Avenue of Flags added to our anticipation — and pride — as the four 60-foot-tall granite heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln rose grandly before us.
In 1925, federal and state legislation authorized the carving of a memorial in South Dakota’s Black Hills, and sculptor Gutzon Borglum (working on the Confederate memorial in Stone Mountain, Georgia, at the time) was hired to oversee the project that officially began October 4, 1927. Although Borglum passed away prior to the completion of the project, his son Lincoln oversaw the carving until the end and attended the dedication on October 31, 1941.
Traditionally, during the months of May through September, visitors can observe the Evening Lighting Ceremony that ends with the singing of the National Anthem as the sculpture is lit. (If you’re going, be sure to check the schedule since many national parks and park activities have been closed or suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic.) But it’s also a great place for picture-taking with the presidents in the background!
If you can time it right, visit the Sculptor’s Studio when rangers give a most interesting account of who did the work and how. (The ranger we saw had a sense of humor good enough for late-night talk shows. Yes, that good.) Rangers can tell you about how Jefferson’s head had to be relocated because of flaws in the granite, how the original Jefferson figure had to be blasted away, and how very little of the clothing is included in the figures — and for good reason! (Sometimes it’s the tidbits we remember the most!)
Dining is available at Carvers’ Cafe and Memorial Grill, but even if you’re not ready for a meal, don’t bypass Memorial Team Ice Cream, named for the baseball team formed in honor of the carvers of Mount Rushmore. Order a “monumental scoop” of TJ’s Vanilla Ice Cream supposedly based upon the first written recipe for homemade ice cream by none other than President Thomas Jefferson and replicated for your pleasure.
You may think that Mount Rushmore is just one more tourist delight.
But thanks to the developers of the monument and the planning by the National Park Service, Mount Rushmore is both awe-inspiring and classic.
Tips to know before you go:
- Park hours vary by season, so check before you go: National Park Service Mount Rushmore.
- Ample parking is available, but there is a fee.
- Walkways are generally accessible to all.
- Getting around to the Sculptor’s Studio, even behind the stadium area, is fairly easy, but there are some tight viewing spots (see below) that may not be accommodating to all.
- The Mount Rushmore Self-Guided Tour: A Living Memorial offers information in several languages about the creation of the monument.
- Check the daily schedule for ranger talks — because you just don’t want to miss one.
- Even before you leave home, visit the National Park Service Mount Rushmore website for an updated schedule of date and times when the monument is open for viewing.
- Download resources and read articles related to travel at Mount Rushmore at the Travel South Dakota website.
This can be a monument and an inspiration for the continuance of the democratic-republican form of government, not only in our own beloved country, but, we hope, throughout the world.Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936
Rusha & Bert
Thomas Jefferson: Wikicommons
Map of South Dakota Black Hills: National Park Service