on August 26, 2007
If you're in South Dakota, you wouldn't want to miss Mt. Rushmore. It's a national symbol of freedom that nearly every American recognizes (even though not everyone knows where it is!).As you walk down the alley between all the state flags and those faces come into view, you can't help but get a little misty-eyed. I had the pleasure of visiting last week with my Dutch friends, and it made me even more proud as I saw it through their eyes, as they saw it for the first time.Gutzon Borglum and his 400 helpers began sculpting the great monument in 1927, and they finished in 1941. He went through several different versions of the sculpture before he decided on the final design. The shape and condition of the stone on the mountain had a lot to do with that -- as they carved, they found that carving in certain places wouldn't be a good idea due to cracks or weakness, so they adjusted the design so as to use the strongest parts of the rock.I still remember the days when it was little more than the monument, nature, and a small visitors center -- and parking was free. Now there is a large, impressive vistor center with lots of information on those four famous presidents -- Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln -- as well as info about the idea and carving of the rock. The gift shop has lots of South Dakota books and DVDs. There are walking trails that take you up a little closer to the faces -- and if you're lucky, you'll see some mountain goats, like we did! You can also go through the sculptor's studio. There is an amphitheatre which hosts special events, concerts, and the like. Every year on July 4 there is a big fireworks display -- and if you want seats, you'd better arrive in the morning and plan to camp there all day. Some years ago, Regis and Kelly (or it might have been long enough ago to still be Regis and Kathie Lee, I can't remember) taped one of their shows at Mt. Rushmore.Admission to the monument is free, but..."They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot." And now parking in the structure, which is now your only option, costs $8. The parking pass is good all year, so if you come back to South Dakota and want to visit those presidents again, you're ready to go.Mt. Rushmore is a must-see on any traveler's South Dakota list.
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