A truly great thing: Mount Rushmore National Memorial

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.

Entrance and Grand View Terrace at Mount Rushmore National Monument
Avenue of Flags leading to Mount Rushmore

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.

The four Presidents of Mount Rushmore:
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln

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!

Taking family pictures in the stadium at Mount Rushmore
Stadium seating for the Evening Lighting Ceremony at Mount Rushmore

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!)

Ranger lecture at the Sculptor’s Studio — informative and funny and not-to-be-missed

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.

According to Peter Greenberg Worldwide, “Finally, you can literally taste history!”

You may think that Mount Rushmore is just one more tourist delight.

Taking selfies at Mount Rushmore

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

Travel safely,

Rusha & Bert

Photo credits:

Thomas Jefferson: Wikicommons

Map of South Dakota Black Hills: National Park Service

15 thoughts on “A truly great thing: Mount Rushmore National Memorial

  1. Miriam Hurdle

    Your photos are gorgeous and the story was informative. I would love to add this to our future travel plan. The sculpture at the Sculptor’s Studio showed a bit more of the upper bodies than the monument. I wonder if if was the initial intention. Thank you for the info and suggestions, Rusha!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      If I remember correctly, it was intended to include more clothing, but time and money prevented that from happening. What a massive undertaking, one that we still can appreciate today.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      It’s pretty impressive, and we learned a lot from the Rangers. Not only that, I was taken by how professional all of it seems — not junky as some tourist sites are. It’s well done and worth a trip.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      It was pretty crowded when we were there as well. Right now might be best when people are just starting to travel again. Although the park is open, though, I’m not sure if the Rangers are doing talks nor am I sure the food venues are open. Nothing on the website lets me know. Thanks for taking a look and commenting. Mt. Rushmore is truly an American treasure!

  2. Mari

    You got some great photographs on this trip. I’ve never been to Mt. Rushmore, always wanted to see it but reading your post and viewing your photos is a good second!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      It’s a good place to visit, mainly for the story of how the idea became reality. I would have been fascinated watching the blasting and carving and all that these workers did. Pretty amazing stuff, for sure.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      We visited in the morning on our way to Custer State Park, so we couldn’t stay for the evening festivities. I wish we could have. From what I can tell, people feel uplifted and patriotic just watching it.

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