Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, SD . . . on our route to the Pacific Northwest in 2008

Updated: 11/30/08

The Shrine of Democracy


We visited Mt. Rushmore three times in two days. Our departure from Custer was delayed a day because we waited for a package from Camping World to be delivered to the campground. The delay was good because it had rained during our first evening visit and we could go another evening.


The ride on the road to Mt Rushmore was beautiful.

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Our day visit was very enjoyable. The weather was pleasant.


f0805 sd _150_1.JPG (63886 bytes)a f0805 sd _510_1.JPG (47816 bytes)a f0805 sd _652_1.JPG (63923 bytes)The walk through the Avenue of Flags and the arch to Grand View Terrace was impressive.






The walk around the Presidential Trail gave us many different views of the faces. It also provided a look back at the entrance and seating for the evening program.


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As we walked around, may people were discussing why these 4 presidents were selected by Borglum. The answer is: Washington represents the founding principals of the new union; Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence and the Louisiana Purchase; Lincoln, the preservation of the country during the Civil War; and Roosevelt, the expansion of the country through the implementation of the Panama Canal and the conservation of the United State's natural resources.



The exhibits of how Mt Rushmore was designed and sculptured were very interesting and well done. 
They are housed in the Sculptor's Studio and Bookstore, on a trail to the right of the Grand View  Terrace.   


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The blasting and the 2" holes drilled for the finer sculpturing.


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Can't imaging working all day from this "bosun chair" hanging on the face of a mountain!



a f0805 sd _416_1.JPG (44476 bytes)Also on display at the Sculptor's Studio, are Gutzon Borglum's original model and many of the tools used to carve the mountain.

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How did the common laborer know where to blast, drill and chisel? The display in the Sculptor's Studio of the scale model was 1/12 scale (one foot = 12 feet). Measuring from the plumb bob line, the workers knew the dimensions. Displayed on the mountain during construction were plaster copies of the models to guide the workmen. 

a f0805 sd _693_1.JPG (66263 bytes)Four-hundred men and women helped create the sculpture on Mount Rushmore. Jobs varied from drillers and blacksmiths to housekeepers. A plaque listed all people who worked on Mt. Rushmore.

The men working on the mountain had to climb up 700 steps to start their work each day. 





a f0805 sd _226_1 tipi.JPG (57743 bytes)a f0805 sd _230_1 tipi.JPG (62896 bytes)For the summer of 2008, Mt. Rushmore has set out to celebrate the cultures of America. With several furnished tipis and interactive educational programs this area, just off the Presidential Trail, will teach visitors about American Indian languages, traditional living, arts and storytelling as presented by members of the South Dakota Tribes.





a f0805 sd _149_1.JPG (52762 bytes)Mary Lou asked at the desk about the walking difficulty of the Presidential Trail. The ranger recommended we walk the trail in reverse order. It appeared to be a lot easier. We did not buy the walking narration so it didn't make a difference.

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We were going down these.   Only a few steps up.



a f0805 sd _610_1.JPG (31628 bytes)a f0805 sd _613_1.JPG (32185 bytes)The faces on Mt Rushmore require frequent maintenance. Some of the tools look just like in Fred's workshop. Borglum recognized the necessity of filling cracks to prevent damage, he devised a process using linseed oil, sand and other "stuff". Several years ago they cleaned out the Borglum mixture and switched to silicone caulk.





a f0805 sd mc parking _697_1.JPG (47601 bytes)Leaving we could see a large number of motorcycles in the top parking lot. We parked in the parking structure - the sound of a Harley reverberates in a parking structure.

Related story . . . We asked a park ranger if we could bring our own chairs to the evening program. He said, "I don't know. Lets ask someone who works here". Come to find out, he was from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park in Michigan. Due to the increased attendance during 'Bike Week' the National Park Service brings in reinforcements for the local rangers. 




The evening presentation was impressive. The program focuses on the presidents, patriotism and the nation's history. Beginning with a ranger's talk, the program continues with the film Freedom: America's Lasting Legacy and culminates in the lighting of the memorial.


a f0805 sd2_509_1.JPG (21241 bytes)a f0805 sd2_554_1.JPG (19601 bytes)It was touch and go that the first evening's performance would take place. A ranger came around and told people where to go for cover if the predicted 'baseball' size hail arrived. 

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Until ten minutes prior to the program, it was unknown if it would go on. But, they announced that the storm passed by us and the show would go on.



a f0806 sd rush speaker_219 crop_1.jpg (31534 bytes)a f0805 sd2_535_1 speaker.JPG (25792 bytes)Each evening, one of the National Park rangers is the emcee for the program. They each do their own monolog about our country and Mt. Rushmore. We attended two programs so could compare two styles - both were well done. 

A video followed the monolog.

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The lights were turned on gradually during the singing of our national anthem, after  the video presentation so the faces just appeared from the darkness.


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We had not thought about the rain affecting the appearance of the sculpture. As this photograph shows, it did. 


a f0805 sd2_419_1.JPG (42198 bytes)The first night a Boy Scout troop from Ohio handled flag duties. At the second, several veterans lowered the flag.




This night, when the veterans were honored, the flag was passed down the row so each veteran could briefly hold it.

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a f0806 sd rush flag touch_353_1.JPG (41096 bytes)At the second night, the veterans filed by to touch the flag on their way back to their seats.







a f0806 sd rush standing_234_1.JPG (36006 bytes)The second night were were at the lighting ceremony, the ranger sang the song God Bless The U.S.A. at the end of her presentation.  We have a tradition in Good Sam and other groups that when this song is sung and the singer says the words - "stand up" , we stand up. It is interesting to observe others stand immediately upon hearing the words and some people realizing what is happening and then standing up.





No more than five minutes after the first night's program ended, the fog came in. It covered the faces for a few minutes and then drifted away. It added to the strange 'weather' evening we experienced. 


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The second evening's weather was perfect and the faces 'looked' as we wanted. 



a f0806 sd rush wood bridge_203_1.JPG (47831 bytes)a f0806 sd rush wood bridge_188_1.JPG (55066 bytes)The second night we left camp early to give us time to travel through the tunnels leading to Mt. Rushmore from the other direction. First we drove under and on two wood bridges. 





We only drove through one tunnel. You could see the road at 'the end of the tunnel'. 

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From the other end of the tunnel . . . you could see Mt. Rushmore

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a f0805 sd mc _718_1.JPG (46964 bytes)a f0805 sd _712_1.JPG (57533 bytes)A quarter of a mile from the entrance, a profile of Washington could be seen. It was a popular stop on the way home.

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T-shirts sometimes give significant messages . . .


Washington - Franklin - Roosevelt - Lincoln


Chief Joseph - Sitting Bull - Geronimo - Red Cloud



We had a great time at Mt Rushmore. Be sure and wear comfortable footwear if you do the Presidential Trail. 


There is a $10 parking fee that is good for the calendar year. Entrance to the memorial is free.



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