Tuesday, October 7th ~ Spent my birthday at Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Wind Cave
Side note: Back in 1991, Tim and I took two months and drove around the USA before we started our business. From California, we took the Southern route across to Florida, turned up north along the Eastern coast as far as Maine, and started back across the Northern states. Dropping down into central Illinois to see family, we ran out of time before we could get to Mt. Rushmore. So FINALLY my dream to see this monument has been fulfilled.
Mt. Rushmore National Memorial
Although Gutzon Borglum is not a household name (at least not in our home), he was probably one of the “largest” sculptures in the world. He was the artist responsible for Mt. Rushmore. He was 58 years old when he started designing this colossal work in 1925.
The four heads of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson are each 60 feet high. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the entire project was completed in just 14 years at a cost of $1 million, but is considered priceless today.
Initially each president was to be depicted from head to waist but due to a lack of funding they were forced to end construction in October 1941.
Mountain Carving ~ The carving of Mt. Rushmore involved getting rid of excess rock by a drilling and blasting process. A great amount of material had to be removed before they were ready to start carving. Washington’s chin is 30 feet deeper than the original mountain side and Jefferson and Lincoln are both 50 feet back and Roosevelt is 75 feet back.
The first step was to drill a series of holes using pneumatic drills that were suspended by chains from the top of the mountain. The work was dangerous and time-consuming, but thankfully there were no serious injuries or deaths in the 14 years it took to complete the process.
A scale model was used for measurements, multiplied by a factor and then transferred to the face of the mountain with plumb lines to mark where the solid rock had to be removed or shaped.
The Workers ~ Most of the workers were drawn from the local community. They were ranchers, miners and lumberjacks. The days were long, starting at 7:30 a.m. for very low wages. Before strapping into a swing seat and being lowered over the side, they first had to climb over 700 steps to reach the top of the mountain.
In the visitors center, some of the workers that are still living were interviewed and filmed. Many just thought of it as “a job”, but later became proud to have been a part of such a monumental project. Jobs were few and far between, and with the changing weather they were often happy to be able to get six months work.
The hourly wages ranged from 55¢ an hour up to $1.50, depending upon ones position and experience. Salaried positions started at $60 per month for a custodian up to $250/month for the superintendent.
Financial Facts: Your senior National Parks entry card is not valid here and you are charged $10 for parking.
Driving a short distance past the park, we came upon a lookout that showed a side profile for Washington. (**you can click on gallery photos for a full size version)
“Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear officially started Crazy Horse Memorial June 3, 1948. The Memorial’s mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.” ~ CrazyHorseMemorial.org
Not nearly as far along as Mt Rushmore, it is still an exciting site to visit. The viewing platform is quite a distance from where the work is being done, but the sense of greatness can still be felt.
When completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world. To give some perspective: Crazy Horse’s head is 87 feet high compared to the US President’s heads at 60. His hand will be about 35 feet tall. The extended left index finger will be nearly 28 feet long. The horse’s head, when completed, will be 219 feet tall.
**Please take note of his extended arm (you will see why below)
It has been over 60 years since work was started at this site and there is still a long way to go. It is not funded by the government, but all private donation plus entry fees. Korczak Ziolkowski and his wife are both now deceased and six of their children are currently running the organization that is slowly moving forward to fulfill their father’s dream. Future plans include an Indian Museum, Indian University and Medical Training Center to be built on the site.
After admiring from afar, we happened upon a sign that said for a tax-deductible donation, you could take a ride in a vehicle up the backside of the mountain and get up close and personal. We lucked out and caught a couple that had just returned from the top and were able to ask if it was worth it. They gave a resounding YES!
Next thing I knew, we were introduced to our guide/driver Bruce, loaded into a 4×4 van, and were headed toward the mountain top…
Bruce answered questions along the way, as we slowly wound our way up the backside of the monument. When we disembarked, the sculpted face was out of our view, but we did glimpse a wild goat and her baby.
Following Bruce out onto a fenced ledge that will become Crazy Horse’s extended arm, he asked us to keep looking forward until he told us to stop and turn around. When finally given the OK, we turned and were face to face with Crazy Horse!
What a thrill indeed to see this massive work up close and personal.
Returning down below, we were invited to do the snake dance with a member of the Lakota tribe.
The sun finally came back out and we got one last shot of the monument lit up.
Financial Facts: Entrance fee is $11 per person. If you want to have a private tour to the top, with a donation of $125 per person it can be arranged. Not cheap, but certainly one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences.
Arriving late in the day, we were not able to take a tour of the caves, but after speaking with one of the rangers, I’m not sure that I would have gone down inside even it time had permitted. Two reasons:
- We have already seen some of the most amazing/impressive caves in the world
- I am claustrophobic and this cave had much smaller areas without large expansive rooms
So, instead we enjoyed driving through the park and spotted some more wildlife including bison, prong horn antelope, mule deer and a coyote.
Another busy, full and very satisfying day came to an end. This will be a birthday I will long remember.
Gratitude Moment: Today I am especially grateful for all of the many wonderful birthday wishes I received. Even being far from home, I felt connected to friends, family and loved ones. I am also grateful to my dear hubby for suggesting we take that private tour up to see Crazy Horse “nose to nose”.
Happy belated Birthday, Joanne! Lovely spot for your celebration!
Thank you dear Cousin! I had an amazing day.
I found Rushmore and Crazy Horse to be two of the most moving things I’ve ever seen. There is a very spiritual aura to those lands.
Hello Mike! Both places helped make for an incredible day. It took me a long time to get there, but some things are truly worth the wait.
What a great experience overall, but specifically to get that up close and personal to a work in process! Awesome!
Kirt, it really was a memorable experience and something I did not even know before hand that it was possible. I hope that the word gets out there.
My sister and her husband stopped there on their way back from a family function in Michigan this summer (they live in San Diego)….they had no idea you could do an up close and personal tour of Crazy Horse..they wished they and known…thanks for sharing!
Sounds like you had a wonderful day – happy belated birthday! as always, I love the mix of facts, impressions and photos, great job. Those end of day meadow shots are simply gorgeous.
Thanks for the birthday wishes. The meadows were just there begging to have their pictures taken!
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Happy Birthday. It has been on my list to see Mt. Rushmore and both Dakotas.
Thank you for the birthday wishes! It took me far too long to get there, but as they say, “better late than never”. This was the ideal time of the year in many ways. The weather was cool, but not cold, and the crowds were gone.
This brings back wonderful memories from our trip out west this summer. We stopped at Mt. Rushmore and I was impressed. Wow what a fantastic sight. We almost had to pass it by but lucky for us we were able to make the stop. So glad we did. I am still going through and editing all of my photos from this summer’s trip. This post makes me excited to look through my Mt. Rushmore photos and re-live the memories.
Mama, I’m so glad you stopped at Mt Rushmore. Did you get to Crazy Horse as well?
We did not. At that point we were on our last few days of the trip. There is so much to see out there. I want to go back.
I can relate. The last two days of our cross country drive were a blur. There was far more to see in that area than I realized. I think taking a small RV back will be in the works for us someday.