Bill and I had both waited a long time to see Mount Rushmore so the next morning we eagerly made the drive to Mount Rushmore National Park. While there is no charge to get in, you have to pay $11 to park with the money going to pay for the large parking garage built to accommodate all the tourists. No federal money was used to pay for the garage. The parking pass is good for a year. We were told that the garage will be paid off in 2016 and the trustees will give the garage to the park service.
Mount Rushmore is an amazing place with an Information Center, Visitors Center, three bookstores, a gift shop, sculptor’s studio, two theaters with movies, nature trails and an amphitheater. A Grand View Terrace to view Mount Rushmore is at the end of the Avenue of Flags where flags from all fifty states are displayed. We enjoyed the exhibits and movie and spent time just looking at the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. We had lunch at the cafe there and Bill tried the buffalo chili which he said was good.
Between 1927 and 1941, sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved the memorial with the help of over 400 workers. When Borglum died his son Lincoln Borglum supervised the completion. Work stopped in October, 1941 near the beginning of World War II. It was interesting to read that Gutzon Borglum wanted to build a special place to share important pieces of American history so he planned to build a large room which would be carved into the vertical wall of the canyon behind the faces. This room would be called the Hall of Records and would store important documents like the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Work on the Hall of Records began in 1938 but the U.S. government would not approve funding for the addition and workers were only able to carve a doorway and small hallway before Congress stopped the Hall of Records project.
After leaving Mount Rushmore we drove through part of Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park along the Iron Mountain Road and the Wildlife Loop Road where we encountered “pigtail curves”. Back in Denver we were excited to see buffalo in the distance behind a fence. Little did we know we would see herds of buffalo here. We saw a lot of buffalo and calves. The buffalo were right by the side of the road and a couple times we had to stop and wait while they crossed the road. The buffalo were shedding their winter coats so they looked especially scruffy.
Today the park is home to as many as 1,450 head of North American bison, also known as buffalo. There were once millions of bison, but by 1900 fewer than 1,000 bison remained on the entire continent. Peter Norbeck, known as the “Father of Custer State Park”, decided to take action to preserve the bison. In 1914 the park purchased thirty-six bison which grew to 2,500 by the 1940’s. The bison numbers are great enough today to have a roundup each year and some of the bison are auctioned off.
Later that evening we returned to the Mount Rushmore Amphitheater for the Evening Lighting Ceremony. After watching a patriotic movie the faces on Mount Rushmore were lighted, we sang the National Anthem and the flag was then lowered. They invited all past and current members of the military service to come down to the stage. The stage was full and each person was asked to give their name and rank. Several of them participated in the folding of the flag.
Some facts about Mount Rushmore:
- Each face is 60 feet tall. Each eye is 11 feet wide.
- Washington’s nose is 21 feet long. All the other noses are 20 feet long.
- Washington’s mouth is 18 feet wide.
- Washington’s head is as tall as a six story building.
- Total cost was $989,992.32
- Main tool was dynamite and the drill was the jackhammer.
- The rock is Harney Peak Granite.