The next stop on my road trip around South Dakota was Mount Rushmore. As I walked towards the monument through the avenue of flags I was excited to finally be there. I quickly checked the state flags to make sure Idaho, my home state, was represented! I am not sure why I always think that Idaho will be excluded, it is a state after all, but I always feel compelled to check.
Mount Rushmore had been on my list of things to see for a long time. I even had a dream about visiting Mount Rushmore, but I will save you the story as no one but yourself finds your dreams fascinating. As I stood looking at the massive giant heads of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln there was one thing I wished I had done differently. I wish that I would have visited Mount Rushmore first and than Crazy Horse Monument. Although Mount Rushmore is still impressive and rather large, Washington’s head is 6 stories tall, it pales in comparison to the size of Crazy Horse. Unlike Crazy Horse’s $4 bus tour to the base of their monument, you can get an up close view of the Rushmore monument for free by taking the presidential walk.
I stopped and read the signs devoted to each president gathering a bit of history about each of them. Some of the presidents were not even college educated, something that in present day would never even be considered if you were to run for president. I found this ironic as these presidents were considered to be some of our best presidents. I guess you either got it or you don’t.
I continued along the walk snapping photos from pretty much every angle anyone would ever think to take a photo of, even an awkward photo of what could only be explained as an up the nose shot of Washington… poor guy – he doesn’t know. Apparently this is the shot to have as there was a line to take it.
It was amazing to see the difference between private funding, like Crazy Horse and federal funding like Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was completed in 14 years. Crazy Horse, who knows a completion date. Although Mount Rushmore was not completely finished according to plan, you can see in the sculptor’s studio the proposed sculpture and compare it to the actual monument. Most noticeable were Lincoln and Washington, omitting jacket detailing on Washington and Lincoln’s hand chicly popping his collar on his jacket. The omissions do not take away from the monument and probably would have only tacked more money and years on to the sculpting process.
Inside the visitors center I found an informative movie that gave the background and history of the project. Doane Robinson, a state historian, commissioned Gutzon Borglum to sculpt the monument. Mount Rushmore was an attempt to boost tourism in the area but it created controversy as the location of the monument was in Lakota’s sacred land. It was land that we of course took from the Lakota Tribe, because you guessed it, we found gold and wanted access to the gold. In further reading I found lots of controversy around the selection of presidents due to their involvements with the acquisition of land from the Native Americans and manifest destiny. Not to mention Borglum’s ties to the Ku Klux Klan, although not connected to the land or presidents, but linking the thought that Mount Rushmore created racial superiority. It sort of puts a tarnish on the feeling of visiting Mount Rushmore. Unaware of most of this controversy during my visit I had an enjoyable time. I learned some history, saw some massive heads carved into the side of a mountain and even saw one of the actual workers who helped carve Mount Rushmore in the book store. I picked up a few smashed pennies for my friend Meg and checked Mount Rushmore off my travel bucket list.