South Dakota: Mount Rushmore National Park
An iconic landmark with the United States of America set in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.
After breakfast, we head on out. Our first plan for the day was to visit Mount Rushmore – the main reason for heading out this way. We are told to take the scenic route that takes you up through the rugged mountains of Dakota’s Black Hills. On this crisp (a euphemism for cold) morning, it was beautiful, with tunnels carved into the mountain through which you get framed glimpses of Mount Rushmore. It is truly beautiful, and the winding switchback roads take you through rough craggy granite peaks and lush forests of Ponderosa pines. The Black Hills rise out and high above the Great Plains, formed by the primordial effects of ancient volcanic action as the continental tectonic plates brushed together. They get their name from the Ponderosa pines which look black as you approach them from the plains. This road has a number of switchbacks which are amazing feats of construction, curling back on and under themselves, hence the naming of one called “Pigs Tail”.
|Location:||Keystone, SD 57751. The memorial is 3 miles from Keystone, SD but is well signposted|
|Hours:||The parking structure and grounds are open from 5 am to 9 pm.
The visitor centre and gift shop open at 8 am and close around 5 pm. The memorial is lit from sunset to 9 pm
|Admission:||Entry is free but there are parking fees: $10 per vehicle, $5 for seniors and free for active military|
Mount Rushmore is a relatively recent creation and started as a concept by state historian Doane Robinson in 1923. The choice of artist was Gutzon Borglum, a radical sculptor with a sense of scale and outlandish ambition. Work started on Washington’s head in 1927 with the final 60-foot head, Teddy Roosevelt, being dedicated in 1939. The visitor centre gives a fascinating insight into the fantastic achievement and skills that went into sculpting the heads of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. 90% of the sculpting was actually done by using explosives, with the rest being done with jackhammers, chisels and assorted other tools. The bottom of the mountain lays testament to the amount of material that was literally blown away over a 13 year period. The design itself changed several times through the work to take into consideration of the imperfections in the rock.