Mount Rushmore: America’s Iconic Symbol of Freedom

Explore the history & grandeur of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota's Black Hills!

In South Dakota’s Black Hills, you can find more than just gold. Mount Rushmore is a national treasure that stands out among the trees and clear waterways in the region.

In the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, the United States stands the monumental Mount Rushmore National Memorial sculpture. It’s about 16 kilometers (10 miles) northeast of Custer and, 4 miles (6 km) north of Custer State Park, 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Rapid City.

On the southeast face of Mount Rushmore, four enormous granite sculptures of the heads of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln stand. The peak, which stands at an impressive 1,745 meters (5,725 feet), was given its current name in 1885 after a New York lawyer named Charles E. Rushmore.

The memorial was designated in 1925 and dedicated in 1927, and it covers an area of about 2 square miles (5 square kilometers). In 1933, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) took over the management of the area.

Gutzon Borglum’s monumental mountain artwork, Mount Rushmore, serves as a memorial to the American people. One hundred fifty years of American history are represented by the statues of the four most famous U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

About 30 miles from Rapid City, the monument can be found in the Black Hills of South Dakota close to Keystone.

Mount Rushmore, USA
Mount Rushmore, USA

Approximately three million people from all over the world travel to see Mount Rushmore every year. The mountain’s breathtaking presence still echoes in the hearts of today’s visitors. All four of the presidents’ “great features” are 465 feet in height and rise 5,725 feet above sea level.

The Carvers Cafรฉ, Memorial ice cream shop, a gift Shop, and Mount Rushmore Bookstores, as well as the Presidential Walk, Youth Exploration Area, Sculptor’s Workshop, parking basement with RV space, canine exercise areas, and so much more, can all be found at the site.

As a national memorial, Mount Rushmore is a symbol of hope for the future as well as the past. As a result of conservation efforts, buffalo are once again roaming freely in Custer State Park, and the ghosts of the Keystone miners’ vision linger over their abandoned mines. Whether Mount Rushmore is your ultimate travel goal or just a break on your way somewhere else, it will be an experience you’ll always remember.

The history of Mount Rushmore National Memorial

In 1923, South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson proposed the idea of carving monumental sculptures of famous Native American and American Old West figures into a needlelike rock formation in Custer State Park in the Black Hills.

However, American sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was commissioned to design and carry out the project, turned down that location because the rock there was too eroded and unstable and instead settled on Mount Rushmore, with its stable granite rock face.

Borglum also suggested that the sculpture’s four heads represent different aspects of American history over the first 150 years: Washington, for the country’s founding; Jefferson, for its expansion across the continent; Roosevelt, for its development domestically and as a global power; and Lincoln, for its preservation through the ordeal of the civil war.

The history of Mount Rushmore National Memorial
The history of Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Shortly after President Calvin Coolidge’s dedication in October 1927, construction on the memorial began and went on and off for the next 14 years. Several months were lost due to Borglum’s sudden and unexpected death in March 1941, design problems (the shape of Jefferson, originally on Washington’s right flank, had to be redone on the other side), and a lack of funding.

Lincoln Borglum successfully led the final stages of the project, which were completed by that year’s October. 6/5 years were spent on the actual carving, during which time hundreds of workers used dynamite, chisels, jackhammers, and drills to shape the giant stone sculpture assemblage.

Borglum used explosives to remove large chunks of rock, drilled numerous holes in close proximity to one another, and then chipped away at what was left to create a smooth surface. The 450,000 tonnes of rock that were excavated during the project were mostly dumped in a pile at the memorial’s base.

Most of the nearly $1 million price tag was covered by the federal government, with the rest coming from private donations. The heads of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were all revealed between 1930 and 1939.

Mount Rushmore, one of America’s greatest icons

One of the most recognizable icons of America is the statuary grouping of Mount Rushmore. This monument has quickly become a top tourism destination and is now one of the most popular National Park Service sites.

Mount Rushmore, one of America's greatest icons
Mount Rushmore, one of America’s greatest icons

Accessibility and visitor facilities and services are just two examples of how the site’s infrastructure has been upgraded and extended over the years to handle the site’s estimated two million yearly visitors. The Boulevard of Flags (opened in 1976) is one such landmark; it’s a path that leads up the mountain and is lined on either side by banners representing all fifty-six U.S. states and regions.

In 1998, a large-scale renovation was finished, resulting in the addition of the Grand View Terrace and its amphitheater, which provide views of the monument from the northern (mountainside) end of the Avenue of Flags; the Presidential Trail, which offers the most up-close views of the sculpture; and the Lincoln Borglum Museum, which houses displays on the memorial’s history.

There are examples of cutting tools and a miniature version of the artwork on exhibit in the 1939 film The Sculptor’s Studio.

The Black Hills National Park is where you’ll find Mount Rushmore. Most of the trees in the area are ponderosa pines, but you can also find aspen forests in the places where the pines have been damaged by things like forest fires or pine bark bugs. In the more open regions, you can find a wide range of grasses and flora.

Large animals such as mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), mule deer, bison, elk, and pumas (mountain lions) are frequently spotted in the area surrounding Mount Rushmore. Nuthatches, pine siskins, and western tanagers are just a few of the many species of birds that make their home in the monument, along with squirrels, chipmunks, wood rats, and other small animals.

Wind Cave National Park (to the south) and Crazy Horse Memorial, and Jewel Cave National Monument are also close to Custer State Park (both southwest). You can drive right up to Mount Rushmore’s entrance. The monument has a cafeteria and a visitors’ center but no places to sleep for the night.



How to get to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

If you’re driving up I-90, take the Rapid City exit and head southwest on Highway 16 to Keystone, where you can pick up Highway 244 to reach Mount Rushmore. Coming from the south, visitors should take Highway 385 to Highway 244 to reach the monument.

What is the address for Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751, United States.

Is there an entrance fee required for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial is free for everyone and requires zero entrance fee.

What are the opening hours of Mount Rushmore National Memorial?

You can visit Mount Rushmore seven days of a week from 5 AM to 9 PM.

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