Jun 29

The Black Hills

Mount Rushmore


Mt Rushmore

In 1930 Sculptor, Gutzon Borglum said “… let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders, their faces, to show posterity what manner of men they were.  Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away

A short distance west of the Badlands is the Mount Rushmore National Monument.  We spent nearly 5 hours at this National icon and took hundreds of photos from all different angles.  Of course, we had to do a Selfie and some much younger people were quite impressed, asking us where we bought it, etc. … not bad for a couple of ‘old’ folks!  It was a beautiful sunny, cool day with the clouds passing overhead changing the faces of the four Presidents every few minutes.

Throughout our trip we have been so impressed with the National Parks Service.  The sites are spotlessly clean, beautifully maintained and the Rangers are knowledgeable and ready to share their knowledge with anyone who is interested.

Here are some of the facts we found interesting:

The intent of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, was to create a monument that celebrated American achievement.  He believed that the four Presidents would be a lasting symbol of the United States and its principles of democracy and freedom.

     Birth (First President of the Nation)George Washington

     Expansion (the Louisiana Purchase) – Thomas Jefferson

     Preservation (saving the Union during the Civil War) – Abraham Lincoln

     Development (Conservation and the Panama Canal) – Theodore Roosevelt

Started in 1927, it took 14 years to complete the memorial.  Borglum’s son, Lincoln, declared it complete in 1941 following his father’s death, even though there still remained work to be done.  It is unfinished to this day.


Gutzon Borglum

Borglum and 400 workers created this masterpiece at a cost of $989,992.32.  No one died while working on the mountain despite the fact that they used primitive equipment.

Workers walked 750 steps up the mountain each day, carrying their tools, to start work at 7:30am!  If they were late, Borglum fired them.  This was not an easy job!

90% of the carving was done with dynamite which removed the stone within six inches of the finished surfaces.  The final touches were done with Jackhammers and a process called ‘honeycombing’.  Finally, smaller hand-held pneumatic hammers created the smooth finish.

Each face is 60 ft. tall (18 meters), each eye is 11 ft. wide (3.35 meters), Washington’s nose is 21ft long (7.62 meters), all others are 20 ft. long (6 meters), Washington’s mouth is 18 ft. wide (5.5 meters).

Thomas Jefferson was originally carved to the left of George Washington however, after 18 months, it was decided the rock was too soft so the face was dynamited and placed on the right side of Washington.

State Flags

State Flag Walk

There are many ways to enjoy this Memorial.  We started with the introductory film about the creation of the monument shown in the Theatre in the Visitors Center.  Walking through the Avenue of Flags flying the flags of the states, districts, commonwealths and territories of the U.S., we stood on the Grand View Terrace trying to take in the enormity of the task that Borglum accomplished.  Before walking the Presidential Trail to the highest point below the carving, we spent time at the Artist’s studio where a National Parks Ranger gave a very interesting talk showing the equipment used to create this lasting Memorial.

We walked the Presidential Trail to the highest point … around 4,500 ft.  The closer you get, the more impressive it is.  Before we knew it, it was 3:00pm and we decided to drive the short distance to the little town of Keystone and have lunch.  The “Grizzly Creek” Restaurant proved to be the place for us.  We sat outside, listening to the creek flowing by, watched chipmunks scurrying around, enjoyed a craft beer and a delicious meal then headed back to our campground for a relaxing evening.  This is what our travel adventure is all about … taking the time to experience the sites and yet relaxing in small towns.

Tunnel to Monument

One of many Tunnels

If you enjoy scenic wilderness, you’ll love The Black Hills!    It’s a camper’s and hiker’s paradise filled with nature trails, sparkling creeks and wildlife.  The hills are covered mostly with Ponderosa pine forest which, like many Western States, is being affected by the pine beetle.   Once infested, the tree will slowly die.  As you look across the forest you’ll see red trees.  This is an indication that the trees have been attacked by the pine beetle and are dying. The National Parks Service is working hard to protect old growth forest by treating with a protective spray and also thinning the forest in an attempt to return the forest to a more sustainable condition.


Crazy Horse

There are many things to do in the Black Hills but time constraints have limited us to the two most important Memorials – Mount Rushmore and The World’s Largest Mountain Carving now in progress  – Crazy Horse.  We’ll make our way there via two scenic roads (not for RV’s so we’ll drive Suzi!) Iron Mountain Road and The Needles Highway.

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