Mount Rushmore can probably be considered South Dakota’s most popular tourist attraction. The creator of Mount Rushmore, Sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected four presidents because from his perspective, they represented the most important events in the history of the United States. George Washington was the father of our new country and laid the foundation of American democracy. He was chosen to be the most prominent figure on the mountain. Thomas Jefferson, our third president was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and purchased the Louisiana Territory from France which doubled the size of our country. He represented the growth of the United States. Theodore Roosevelt is known for the development of the United States as during his presidency America experienced rapid industrial growth. President Lincoln unified the nation during the Civil War and therefore represents the preservation of our country.
The building of Mount Rushmore began in 1927 and was completed in 1941 with nearly 400 men and women involved in this undertaking. The work could be dangerous as 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite. Men would cut and set charges of specific size to remove precise amounts of rock. Since I have a great fear of heights, I am amazed that these workers could endure hanging in seats lowered down the 500 foot face of the mountain by steel cables to work on the faces that were 60 feet in height. Although the work was difficult, no one was killed during construction.
When I heard that Mount Rushmore had a nightly lighting ceremony I was excited to see this. I had seen Mount Rushmore many years before, but not at night under lights. Although he had never seen the mountain before at all, Mark did not share my enthusiasm. Our last night in the Black Hills we attended the ceremony held in a very large amphitheater below the mountain. The ceremony consisted of a ranger talk and a film regarding the making of the monument and reviewing the reasons for choosing each of the four presidents. When the film ended, the monument was lit and it was thrilling to see the four faces shining in the dark.
This was not the end of the ceremony though. The ranger invited all veterans and active military to come to the stage at the bottom of the amphitheater and participate in the flag lowering ceremony. In the picture below, I am standing second from the right.
We slowly made our way out of the park, relishing the view of the lighted mountain a few more times as we walked to the parking area. One of the most memorable views was Mount Rushmore framed with the walk way of the state flags. It was truly a beautiful sight. Mark wound up being very impressed with the monument and ceremony.
As we drove back to our camp in the town of Custer, we came to the view of Washington’s profile that can be seen from the road and an adjacent parking lot. We pulled over and I gazed in awe at Washington’s face framed by tall rock pillars with a clear sky full of stars shining above his head. I tried to take a picture but it did not turn out well in the dark so I have included below a picture taken when we drove by during the day.
I would like to close with a photo from our campground in Custer one evening. It is always a delight to end the day sitting in front of a roaring fire.
It was hard to leave this lovely area after four nights but the open road was calling and we needed to continue our trek to finish our South Dakota stay in the Badlands area and then on into Nebraska.