Visiting Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills

By Rebecca VanGinkel

Mt. Rushmore is located in the Black Hills in beautiful southwestern South Dakota. The start of the carving of the faces of United States Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt was started in the year 1927, by an American sculptor named Gutzon (John) Borglum. Not only did John Borglum design the carving, he also supervised the construction of it until he died in 1941. Borglum himself viewed these four presidents as the most important United States leaders of all time. This was a tribute from him to the men that he respected most.

The four faces of the famous presidents are carved into granite on the side of Mt. Rushmore. The carvings are about five hundred feet above ground and each face is about sixty feet tall. It is recorded that almost one million dollars was used in the carving of the faces. The many construction workers used different drills and dynamite to blow away and carve out the pictures. It took many years of hard work and grueling labor to finish. They could only work on the carvings when the weather permitted, and that is one of the reasons it took so long to finish.

John Borglum worked tirelessly on his large and famous project from 1927 until he died in 1941. When he did die, he had finished the faces of George Washington, who was completed first, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. The face of Theodore Roosevelt was unfinished at the time of his death. Borglum’s son, Lincoln, took over the project in 1941. Lincoln and his workers finished the face of Roosevelt later in the year.

If you are lucky enough and get the chance to visit Mt. Rushmore, do not pass it up. My husband and I took our young son there last summer and it is a trip we will never forget. It was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. As you walk up to the carving, you get to walk through an open tunnel of towers, where all the flags of every state in the U.S are blowing in the wind. It is very patriotic. You will also get to see a statue of John Borglum himself. Another great attraction at Mt. Rushmore is the stone wall that names every person that worked on the carving. Also, there is a large, open auditorium located beneath the carvings. We were told that in the summer they have shows and exhibits located there.

Located near the open tunnel is a great gift shop. You can buy anything from postcards to t-shirts with pictures of Mt. Rushmore on them. You can find a gift for just about any family member there.

We also were surprised to find that you can take a nature hike right up underneath the faces of the presidents. They definitely look a lot bigger up close. Or, instead of walking right under the carving, you can walk inside a huge boulder that is split in half, and peer through the trees to see it. It is definitely a breathtaking experience. Our trip to Mt. Rushmore was definitely a great learning experience, and we would love to go back someday soon.

When we were in South Dakota visiting Mt. Rushmore, we also got to venture into the Black Hills. The Black Hills are located not only in South Dakota, but also in Northeastern Wyoming. We actually learned a lot about the history of the Black Hills.

We were very surprised to learn that the Black Hills are home to one of the largest herds of bison left in the United States. We were told that there are not even close to as many bison today as there were one hundred years ago. We also learned that the Black Hills were first home to the Sioux Native Americans. In the hills, the Sioux lived happily. The hills provided them with everything they needed to live. The food, water, and shelter were plentiful. They were forced out of their home in 1847, soon after large amounts of gold were discovered there. They were forced out of their beloved home, and onto reservations that they resented. When this happened, the Sioux lost all trust and respect for the people they called white men.

In 1980, one hundred and six years after the Sioux were forced out of the Black Hills, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the tribe should be paid over one hundred and twenty two million dollars in return for the land that was seized from them. Although some wanted to accept the money, most Sioux didn’t. They feel they should be able to have the Black Hills back, and once again be the rightful owners.

When visiting the Black Hills, we learned a lot about our nation’s history. We had a lot of fun on our trip, and saw many beautiful things. We would love to go back someday. We would recommend visiting the Black Hills and Mt Rushmore to anyone who wanted to have a lot of fun and learn a lot about the U.S. History.

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