Mount Rushmore National Memorial

A distant view of Mount Rushmore

The sculptures of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt carved into Mount Rushmore are the product of the vision of Gutzon Borglum and the 400 men and women who followed his instructions and carried out the actual work of carving the mountain. The faces were carved from the granite through the use of large drills and specifically placed dynamite charges. Since the work was declared complete in 1941, Mount Rushmore National Memorial has become one of the primary icons of the United States. More than three million people from all corners of the world visit the site every year.

The actual sculpting of the mountain took place between October 4, 1927 and October 31, 1941. To get to work, most of the workers climbed the 700-step stairways to the top of the mountain to punch in on the time clock. Then they collected their tools, strapped in to their bosun's chairs and were lowered over the face of the mountain dangling on 3/8" thick steel cables. They drilled holes in the face to specific depths so that dynamite charges could be placed and large chunks of granite removed. As the work progressed, they took care to get no closer to the final surface with the dynamite than about three-to-six inches. Those final inches were then honeycombed with holes drilled very close together, usually close enough that the remaining surface rock could be removed by hand. When they were satisfied with the general shape of the faces, they then smoothed the granite with hand-operated bumper tools and left behind a surface as smooth as a concrete sidewalk.

During the work, the original carved head of Jefferson was begun to the right of Washington's head. After 18 months of working on the Jefferson head, they decided to scrap it, dynamiting the face off the mountain and beginning to carve Jefferson again to the left of Washington.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day. Mount Rushmore National Memorial doesn't charge an entry fee but it does charge a parking fee. That $10 parking fee is good for one year from the month of purchase. Because it's a parking fee, none of the usual National Parks annual passes count.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway area map

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Area map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!