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Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mt. Rushmore stands as a shrine of democracy, a monument and memorial to George Washingtonthis country's birth, growth and ideals. Mount Rushmore symbolizes the greatness of this nation through the greatness of its leaders. The epic sculpture of Mount Rushmore depicts the faces of four exalted American presidents that symbolize this nation's rich history, rugged determination and lasting achievements.

Between 1927 and 1941, Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the 60-foot busts of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln to represent the first 150 years of American history. Washington was selected for MountThomas Jefferson Rushmore because he was the father of our country and represents our struggle for independence, our constitution and our liberty. Jefferson was to be honored on Mt. Rushmore as the author of the Declaration of Independence, representative government and for the expansion of our country through the Louisiana Purchase. Teddy Roosevelt, the third bust on Mount Rushmore was selected because he saw through the completion of the Panama Canal linking the oceans and opening the connecting waters of the East and the West. Lincoln was chosen for preserving the Union through one of America's darkest hours and for the ideals of freedom and equality for all.

In the words of Mount Rushmore's creator, John Gutzon Borglum, "Hence, let us place there, carved high, as close to heaven as we can, the works of Theodore Rooseveltour 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 the rain alone shall wear them away"

Mount Rushmore Memorial is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, 23 miles from Rapid City. The memorial serves as home to many animals and plants representative of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The geologic formations of the heart of the Black Hills region are also evident at Mount Rushmore, including large outcrops of granite and mica schist.

Rushmore Facts:

  • Sculptor Gutzon Borglum began drilling into the 5,725-foot mountain in 1927, at the age of 60.
  • Creation of the Shrine of Democracy took 14 years and cost a mere $1 million.
  • Rushmore's granite faces tower 5,500 feet above sea level.
  • The carvings on Mount Rushmore are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall.
  • Each head on Mt. Rushmore is as tall as a six-story building.
  • More that 800 million pounds of stone were removed from Mount Rushmore while carving the presidents.
  • Each president's face is as tall as the entire Great Sphinx of Egypt, measuring 60 feet from the chin to the top of the head.
  • The presidents' noses are 20 feet long, each mouth 18 feet wide and the eyes are 11 feet across.
  • The workers had to climb 506 steps daily to get to the top of Mount Rushmore.

In 1998, Mount Rushmore National Memorial celebrated the completion of a 10 year, multi-million dollar public-private partnership project to improve the visitor facilities at the memorial. The project includes a much larger parking facility and the new Lincoln Borglum Museum which features an orientation film and lots of excellent exhibits.

The Avenue of Flags leads from the Concession Building to the GrandviewAbraham Lincoln Terrace. The flags of the 56 states and territories line either side of the walkway. The avenue provides direct and easy access to the Grandview Terrace and Presidential Trail, a half-mile walking trail that offers spectacular views of the mountain sculpture.

The memorial offers interpretive programs, exhibits and an orientation film, while Rangers provide interpretive walks and talks, including the Evening Sculpture Lighting Ceremony. The lighting program takes place at approximately nightly around dusk (May-September) in the park's amphitheater. The amphitheater is fully accessible via the Avenue of Flags to elevators at the museum.

Recommended Mount Rushmore Activities/Features

  • Stroll the Avenue of Flags, where each state is represented.
  • View the Mount Rushmore carving from Grand View Terrace.
  • View Mt. Rushmore's new state of the art Visitor Center and Museum including an orientation film on the presidents and the Rushmore carving.
  • Walk the Presidential Trail which offers the closest viewpoints of the Mt. Rushmore faces.
  • View the evening lighting ceremony held in the amphitheater at 9:00 PM nightly during the summer months.
  • Shop for local arts and crafts, such as Black Hills Gold jewelry, in the 5,300 square foot Mount Rushmore gift shop.
  • Eat at the Carvers Café which offers visitors a delicious array of food selections, served with a commanding view of the presidential sculptures.
  • View the Sculptor's Studio and put yourself in the artist's perspective and view the mountain sculpture and the original model of the carving.
  • The next time you visit Mount Rushmore be sure to take part in The Mount Rushmore Audio Tour incorporating music, narration, interviews, historic recordings and sound effects.

Other programs being offered include guided walks to the Sculptor's Studio, Presidential Trail walks, talks on the Grandview Terrace, afternoon children's activities and studio talks. Please check at the park's Visitor Center or call the park at (605) 574-2523 for times of these activities.

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Last modified: October 23, 2017