After lunch today, the gals and I piled into the truck for the extremely long and tedious two mile drive to Mount Rushmore National Memorial. That’s sarcasm folks; we could see ‘the boys’ from the campground!
Mount Rushmore was conceived by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson to bring tourism to the Black Hills. Yes, it was a meant to be a tourist trap. 🙂 The idea was to carve the likenesses of famous figures from the west, but the idea was refined when Danish sculptor Gutzon Borglum was chosen to execute the project. He chose the site and the figures that would be represented. He selected four presidents who symbolize the principles of liberty and freedom on which the United States were founded. George Washington represents the fight for independence and the birth of the country. Thomas Jefferson represents territorial expansion. Abraham Lincoln represents the permanent union and equality of citizens. Theodore Roosevelt represents the 20th century role of the United States in world affairs.
The whole Black Hills region is a tourist trap, so I wasn’t too sure about whether it would be worth paying the $11 parking fee to get into the memorial when you could see Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson so clearly from many vantage points. I also had a real issue with the fact that the National Parks Service heavily promotes the memorial as being free to visit, making folks jump through hoops and multiple sites to get to information on parking fees. You get a lot of your $11 ‘parking fee,’ which is valid for a full calendar year, so it’s absolutely and totally worth paying it. But tourists aren’t going to differentiate between admission and parking and you can’t really walk to the memorial, so stop saying it’s ‘free.’ End rant.
You really can’t appreciate the details of the sculptures unless you’re up close. They are so lifelike it is almost eerie!
We got so lucky in that we arrived literally minutes before the statues were socked in with fog!
You can walk the Presidential Trail and climb 250 steps to another vantage point. The angle is just subtly different enough that it seems like the presidents have moved!
Mount Rushmore is such an iconic location. Who can forget Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint dangling from President Washington in ‘North By Northwest’? I’m really glad that I saw the statues up close because you really cannot appreciate the details from afar. They are truly works of art.
Also on site is the sculptor’s studio, where you can see the model that was used to guide the sculptor on the mountain. There is also a really good museum with a movie about the building of the statues and how this impressive feat was accomplished (tons of dynamite and lots of math!). Incredibly, there were no fatalities during construction and no major injuries!
But guess what the icing on the proverbial cake was today? I got to speak with one of the drillers who worked on mostly Lincoln and Roosevelt! He remembers the experience like it was yesterday.