Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Mount Rushmore is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, 23 miles southwest of Rapid City in Keystone. Rapid City is the nearest urban center to Mount Rushmore National Memorial offering visitors a vacation experience that features a wide range of accommodations, dining, shopping and attraction options.

To get to Mount Rushmore from Rapid City, just follow Mount Rushmore Road, which turns into SD Highway 16 and 16A, leading you to SD 244 and the park entrance. The drive takes less than half an hour and offers spectacular views of the monument as you approach Mount Rushmore.

13000 SD-244
Keystone, SD, 57751
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History of Mount Rushmore

HISTORY OF MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL

The story of Mount Rushmore National Memorial begins in 1923 when South Dakota historian Doane Robinson envisioned creating an attraction so big it would bring people from all over the world to the Black Hills.

He dreamed of sculptures of Wild West heroes carved into the granite needles of the Black Hills. He contacted sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who was carving Stone Mountain in Georgia, and asked him to come to South Dakota to discuss the project. Borglum agreed to meet with Robinson, but instead of Wild West heroes, Borglum believed this undertaking needed to be bigger—something with national significance that was timeless and relevant to our country’s history. He wanted a Shrine to Democracy.

Immediately after Borglum agreed to be a part of the project, Robinson and South Dakota’s U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck began to secure federal funding for the project. But they had to get creative. They invited President Calvin Coolidge to come to Custer State Park for a vacation. To keep the president in the state, workers stocked the stream outside his room every night with thousands of trout. The scheme worked. The president found the fishing so good, he decided to extend his stay for two months, just long enough to convince him to fund the carving of Mount Rushmore.

In August of 1927, President Calvin Coolidge officially dedicated the project, and the work on Mount Rushmore began. 
 

Gutzon Borglum at Mount Rushmore

CARVING A MOUNTAIN

The majority of the mountain was carved during the Great Depression by Black Hills miners and settlers who climbed 100 steps every morning to punch the time clock at the top of the mountain. For 14 years, 400 men used dynamite, jackhammers and hand tools to blast, chisel and carve the 60-foot faces of four American presidents.

In March of 1941, Gutzon Borglum unexpectedly died, leaving his son, Lincoln Borglum, to finish the final details of the memorial. However, with the country’s impending involvement in WWII, federal funding was pulled and Mount Rushmore was declared complete on October 31, 1941, even though it did not match Borglum’s original models.

Carving of Mount Rushmore National Memorial

 

THE FACES OF MOUNT RUSHMORE

The four presidents carved on Mount Rushmore National Memorial represent key themes of the nation’s history. Symbolizing freedom, liberty and the power of a dream, they have stood for 75 years high above the Black Hills, inspiring generations of families and visitors from all over the world.

FOUNDING

George Washington, 1st President of the United States (1789-1797)

A leader of the American Revolutionary War and elected president in 1789, George Washington took the position reluctantly. Seeing the challenges the new nation faced, the popular military hero feared he wasn’t the right man for the job. Despite being a member of the Federalist Party, Washington was unanimously elected by the 69 electors to lead the new United States of America.

 

  • The face of George Washington was the first to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
  • The Washington carving was officially dedicated on July 4, 1930.
  • An American flag measuring 39 feet by 67 feet was hand-sewn by a group of Rapid City women and wife of the sculptor, Mrs. Gutzon Borglum, for the dedication. The flag was later used to dedicate all the presidents of Mount Rushmore.

 

See George Washington in the City of Presidents

George Washington

GROWTH

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States (1801-1809)

Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third president and one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, is credited with inspiring democracy and the western expansion of the country. In 1803 Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory (which included most of present-day South Dakota) from France for $15 million. The expansion doubled the size of our country, prompting Jefferson to send Lewis and Clark on their famed expedition to explore the new territory. After their return, settlers started moving west into the nation’s new frontier.

  • Carving on Mount Rushmore of Thomas Jefferson’s face originally began on the opposite side of George Washington.
  • Carvers realized 18 months into the carving that the granite was not suitable. Jefferson’s partially carved face was blasted off with dynamite and carving began anew on the other side of Washington, where we see it now.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the carving of Jefferson on August 30, 1936.

 

See Thomas Jefferson in the City of Presidents

Thomas Jefferson

DEVELOPMENT

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909)

Theodore Roosevelt was a fiery individualist who embodied American culture of the early 1900s and provided leadership during a time of rapid economic growth. His conservationism, willingness to take on big business and progressive policies set the stage for important reforms of the 20th century, leading many to characterize him as one of the nation’s greatest leaders. Deeply inspired by the Dakota Territory, Roosevelt is also the father of our National Park System, which protects valuable natural resources for generations of Americans to enjoy.

 

  • The face of Roosevelt was the last to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
  • The Roosevelt carving was dedicated on July 2, 1939.

 

See Theodore Roosevelt in the City of Presidents

Theodore Roosevelt

PRESERVATION

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States (1861-1865)

Leading the country through some of its darkest years, Abraham Lincoln is considered by many scholars to be our nation’s greatest president. He was instrumental in the abolishment of slavery and is credited with setting in motion the work to preserve the United States after the Civil War. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated while attending a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. He died on April 15th.

 

  • The face of Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore was officially dedicated on September 17, 1937.

 

See Abraham Lincoln in the City of Presidents

Abraham Lincoln

 

MOUNT RUSHMORE FACTS, FIGURES AND STORIES

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • On average, Mount Rushmore hosts nearly three million visitors a year.
  • It took 14 years and 400 men to carve the mountain. Despite harsh and dangerous conditions, no one died during the project.
  • Mount Rushmore cost nearly one million dollars and was mostly carved during the Great Depression.
  • Over 90% of Mount Rushmore was carved using dynamite. The blasts removed approximately 450,000 tons of rock. Details were finished with jackhammers and hand chisels.
  • The faces of Mount Rushmore are 60 feet high. That’s the same size as a six-story building.
  • Washington’s nose is approximately 21 feet long. The rest of the faces have noses that measure about 20 feet.
  • The eyes of each president are 11 feet wide, and their mouths are approximately 18 feet wide.
  • On August 10, 1927, President Calvin Coolidge officially dedicated Mount Rushmore. While a ceremonial drilling took place, carving wouldn’t start until October 4, 1927.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s face on Mount Rushmore was originally started on the opposite side of George Washington, but 18 months into the carving, they realized the granite was too weak. His face was dynamited off and carved on the other side. 
  • For the dedication of George Washington’s face, a group of Rapid City women sewed a 39ft by 67ft American flag. The flag was later used to dedicate all of the presidents on Mount Rushmore.

STORIES

  • Behind the sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, Gutzon Borglum began blasting a Hall of Records. He envisioned the hall to be a grand room that would house all of our nation’s founding documents and charters—like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 
  • Local legend suggests the first coffee break started during the carving of Mount Rushmore. One cold morning, the carvers were huddling on top of the mountain, warming themselves with hot coffee, when Sculptor Gutzon Borglum busted in on the gathering. He later instructed the foreman to have donuts and coffee ready for him and the carvers the next morning at 10:00 a.m. sharp.
  • In 1884, while visiting the Black Hills, New York attorney Charles Rushmore asked his guide about the name of a certain mountain. The guide jokingly replied, “It hasn’t got one…so we’ll call the thing Rushmore.” That mountain was officially recognized as Mount Rushmore during the carving 40 years later. 
  • The mountain goats that live at Mount Rushmore are not native to the area or to South Dakota. In 1923, the government of Canada gave six Rocky Mountain goats to Custer State Park. The high-climbers escaped from their pen and headed north to take up residence at Mount Rushmore. The goats can often be seen wandering around the memorial in the early mornings and evenings when there are fewer visitors.
  • To turn the dream of Mount Rushmore into reality, sculptor Gutzon Borglum and U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck had to get creative to secure federal funding. They invited President Calvin Coolidge to come to Custer State Park for a vacation so they could convince him to fund the carving of Mount Rushmore. To keep the president in the state, workers stocked the stream outside his room every night with thousands of trout. The president found the fishing so good, he decided to extend his stay for two months— just long enough to convince him to fund the carving of Mount Rushmore.
  • The men who carved Mount Rushmore were mostly miners who had come to the Black Hills in search of gold—they knew little about carving a mountain, let alone creating a giant work of art.  While the money was considered good at $8 a day, the project often ran out of money, causing the men to be furloughed or laid off.  But to their credit, when the mountain would start up again, the men would quit their jobs and come back to work on Mount Rushmore. 
  • Mount Rushmore sponsored a baseball team that played other regional teams.  Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln were so competitive that they would hire workers just because they could play baseball. A majority of the new hires could swing a bat but had no idea how to use the jackhammers or dynamite used to carve the mountain.
  • The Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center houses an impressive collection of Mount Rushmore facts and artifacts. A simulated dynamite blast and a 14-minute narrative film give visitors an overview of how and why the mountain was carved.

 

GUIDED TOURS AND INTERPRETATIVE PROGRAMS

AUDIO TOURS

An audio tour is available for a small fee, allowing visitors to hear the stories and learn the history of this important national memorial. Hear the story of Mount Rushmore through narration, historic recordings and interviews when you rent the award-winning Mount Rushmore Audio Tour. This unique experience offers in-depth history as you walk the scenic route around the park.

The tour (available in English, German, Spanish and Lakota) can be rented for $5 during the summer months at the Audio Tour Building across from the Information Center. Use our Monumental Itinerary to help guide your vacation planning to Rapid City and Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. 

SCULPTOR'S STUDIO

Today, visitors who tour the Sculptor's Studio at Mount Rushmore can see Gutzon Borglum’s full vision for the mountain. The Sculptor’s Studio houses the tools used to carve the mountain and original plaster model workers used for measurements and scale. Ranger talks and demonstrations are given throughout the day during the summer months. You can also visit the Lincoln Borglum Museum at the memorial, which features exhibits about the history of Mount Rushmore.

Seasonal Hours

May 29 - August 21 8:00am - 5:00pm 
August 22 - Sept 30 9:00am - 4:00pm 
October 1 TBD

EVENING LIGHTING CEREMONY

Park Rangers lead an inspirational and patriotic program focusing on the presidents and the nation’s history. The program ends with a film, veteran’s tribute and lighting of the monument. Located in the park’s outdoor amphitheater during the summer, weather permitting.

PRESIDENTIAL TRAIL

Walking the Presidential Trail is a great way to get a closer view of Mount Rushmore. The trail makes a loop from the south side of the Grand View Terrace to the Grand View Terrace and Sculptor’s Studio on the north side.

 

PLAN YOUR VISIT

HOURS OF OPERATION

  • Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open all year, seven days a week.
  • Mount Rushmore grounds:
    5:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. (mid-March to early October)
    5:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (early October to mid-March)
  • Sculpture Illumination:
    Sunset - 11:00 p.m. (mid-March to late May)
    9:30 - 11:00 p.m. (late May to mid-August)
    8:30 - 11:00 p.m. (mid-August to early October)
    Sunset - 9:00 p.m. (early October to mid-March)
  • Evening Lighting Ceremony:
    Nightly at 9:00 p.m. (late May to mid-August)
    Nightly at 8:00 p.m. (mid-August to early October)

For more information, please call 605-718-8484 or visit the Mount Rushmore National Memorial page on the National Park Service website.

 

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING

  • Fees: There is no admission to the memorial, but there is a parking fee.

    • $10.00 (Annual pass) Cars, Motorcycles and RV's

    • $50.00 (Commercial Bus/day)

    • Parking fees may be paid with cash, traveler's check, Visa or Mastercard.

  • Park offers onsite restaurant, visitor services and centers, and a gift shop.

For more information, call 605-574-2523 or visit the Mount Rushmore National Memorial page on the National Park Service website.

  Mount Rushmore National Monument participates in the National Park Service's Junior Ranger Program.