Mt Rushmore Tours – Pt 1

The tour started with breakfast this morning at the chuck wagon, pancakes it is! You can come in and eat breakfast here without being on the tour and it is all you can eat pancakes for 99c. You heard me, 99c.


As we depart Ft. Hays, our bus driver for the day is Dan Eggebraaten. There are 28 on the bus from Indiana, the rest of us Nebraska, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Jack and I the only Internationals from Australia.

And so began the trivia and extra information about South Dakota, the Black Hills and the little towns in between. So here is some of today's history lesson for those that haven't been before,

The population for the whole state of South Dakota is 800,000. There are several different reservations with 75,000 native Americans and they populate 25% of the state land. The Lakota Sioux named the hills of South Dakota with the Indian name of Paha Sapa meaning hills that are black. Hence, the Black Hills.

Lead (pronounced leed) got its name from the lead's in the rock that the miners would look for when searching for gold. You can see some of these white lines (lead's) in some of the rock faces we passed on the road.

This bridge is made from laminated Douglas fir timber, it is called the Keystone Wye Bridge.


Keystone was an old mining camp from years ago. Mines were said to be often named after the miners wives. Big thunder mine is still open for touring, and there is another mine named after a miners wife called the holy terror, it was a very prosperous mine in its time. It could yield 250pds of gold a month. A lot of cave in's and deaths occurred at that mine before it was closed off. Keystone folks celebrate Holy Terror Days annually.


First stop on the tour is Mt Rushmore. The Mt Rushmore Memorial is sculptured on the south east face of the mountain featuring Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.

The four presidents were carved by Gutzon Borglum, commenced at the age of 60 and took him 14 years to carve finishing in 1941. In actual time working on the carvings were 6.5 years (if you considered weather and other things that halted work along the way).

The sculpture is complete as finished on the mountain. No further carving was done after he Bordlum passed away but his intentions were to have them carved to the waist.

$1M was spent on the sculpture which doesn't seem a lot until you know that it was done during the Great Depression. Washington's face is 60ft from top of his head to bottom of his chin and 11ft across the eyes. This means if completed would be 400ft high. Lincoln's mole is 16″ across.


There were 400 people working with this monument and its surroundings and no one died whilst doing it. There is a granite wall recognising all those involved, only one man is still alive today – Donald “Nick” Clifford now 94. (He was actually in the gift store signing books, so an opportunity we couldn't pass up)


The avenue of flags leads you to the viewing platform and entrances to the presidential trail and sculpture studio.

90% of the work on the faces was done with dynamite and then Borglum could do the finer details.

The sheer size of this monument is amazing to see. There is also the amphitheatre, exhibit hall, restaurant and gift shop. If you ever get there it's a must see.

Apparently Mt Rushmore was named after Charlie Rushmore a New York Lawyer, who went out to check on some of his clients mining claims. It was reported that he may have made a sizeable donation hence the name may have come from then.

Kat – your local 'how fast can your fingers type' historian

July 28th, 2015



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