Majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota, tell the story of the birth, growth, development and preservation of this country. From the history of the first inhabitants to the diversity of America today, Mount Rushmore brings visitors face to face with the rich heritage we all share.
Mount Rushmore is a project of colossal proportion, colossal ambition and colossal achievement. It involved the efforts of nearly 400 men and women. The duties involved varied greatly from the call boy to drillers to the blacksmith to the housekeepers. Some of the workers at Mount Rushmore were interviewed, and were asked, "What is it you do here?" One of the workers responded and said, "I run a jackhammer." Another worker responded to the same question, "I earn $8.00 a day." However, a third worker said, "I am helping to create a memorial." The third worker had an idea of what they were trying to accomplish.
The workers had to endure conditions that varied from blazing hot to bitter cold and windy. Each day they climbed 700 stairs to the top of the mountain to punch-in on the time clock. Then 3/8 inch thick steel cables lowered them over the front of the 500 foot face of the mountain in a "bosun chair". Some of the workers admitted being uneasy with heights, but during the Depression, any job was a good job.
The work was exciting, but dangerous. 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite . The powdermen would cut and set charges of dynamite of specific sizes to remove precise amounts of rock.
Before the dynamite charges could be set off, the workers would have to be cleared from the mountain. Workers in the winch house on top of the mountain would hand crank the winches to raise and lower the drillers. If they went too fast, the drillers in their bosun chairs would be dragged up on their faces. To keep this from happening, young men and boys were hired as call boys. Call boys sat at the edge of the mountain and shout messages back and forth assuring safety. During the 14 years of construction not one fatality occurred.
Dynamite was used until only three to six inches of rock was left to remove to get to the final carving surface. At this point, the drillers and assistant carvers would drill holes into the granite very close together. This was called honeycombing. The closely drilled holes would weaken the granite so it could be removed often by hand.
Visitors to the site were very interested in the honeycombed granite and would often ask, "How can I get a piece of rock like that?" The hoist operator would usually respond, "Oh, I can't give that away. I'm holding onto it for a buddy of mine that works up on the mountain." The visitor would respond, "I'll pay, I'll give you $2.00 for it." The hoist operator's reply was, "Nope, nope, I'd really catch it if I gave away my buddy's piece of granite." If the visitors were very determined to get a piece of that granite, they would make another offer. "I'll give you $6.00 for that piece of honeycomb granite." The hoist operator would pretend to pause and think about it... then he would say, "Alright for $6.00 I'm willing to take the heat." The hoist operator would give the visitors the piece of honeycombed granite and take their $6.00. The visitor would leave very pleased with their rare and hard won souvenir. The hoist operator would wait until he was sure the visitors were gone and he would get on the phone to the top of the mountain and say, "Boys send down another one!" Another piece of honeycombed granite was sent down, ready for the next visitor looking for a special souvenir from Mount Rushmore.
After the honeycombing, the workers smoothed the surface of the faces with a hand facer or bumper tool. In this final step, the bumper tool would even up the granite, creating a surface as smooth as a sidewalk.
From 1927 to 1941 the 400 workers at Mount Rushmore were doing more than operating a jackhammer, they were doing more than earning $8.00 a day, they were building a Memorial that people from across the nation and around the world would come to see for generations.
You do not need a reservation for any programs at Mount Rushmore, including the Evening Lighting Ceremony.
Things To Do
While most visitors travel to Mount Rushmore to admire the enormous sculpted faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, there are numerous other ways to experience this site and immerse yourself in the human history and the natural surroundings of the Black Hills of South Dakota.
If you have one to two hours: Visit the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center to view exhibits and a 14-minute film describing the reasons for and methods used in carving Mount Rushmore. Walk the Presidential Trail (0.6 miles long, 422 stairs, weather permitting) to get up close and personal with the mountain sculpture and perhaps glimpse some of the area wildlife. During 2018 a portion of the trail will be closed due to construction. See current trail conditions here. Complete the Junior Ranger program. Booklets are available at the information desks for ages three to four, five to twelve and 13 and up. Dine in the Carver's Marketplace, enjoy some ice cream from the Ice Cream Shop or shop in the Gift Shop.
If you have more time, you may also consider:
Ranger Walks and Talks(30 minutes) Free These programs begin at various locations throughout the memorial. Programs are offered each day throughout the summer months. Schedules are posted at the Information Center and Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center.
Evening Program (45 minutes - weather permitting) Free Join a park ranger in the park's outdoor amphitheater for an inspirational program focusing on the presidents, patriotism and the nation's history. Beginning with a ranger talk, this program continues with the film Freedom: America's Lasting Legacy (captioned) and culminates in the lighting of the memorial. Program held nightly late May through the end of September.
Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village (10 - 30 minutes) Free Explore the history of the Black Hills and the American Indian tribes who have populated this land for thousands of years. Located along the first section of the Presidential Trail, this area highlights the customs and traditions of local American Indian communities. Open 10:30am to 3:00pm early June through mid-August, weather permitting.
Youth Exploration Area (10 - 30 minutes) Free Explore the natural, cultural and historical aspects of Mount Rushmore with interactive programs. Located along the first section of the Presidential Trail. Open early June through early August.
Audio Tour (30 - 120 minutes) Rental Fee Charged Rent an audio tour wand to hear the story of Mount Rushmore through music, narration, interviews, historic recordings and sound effects while walking a scenic route around the park. Available at the Audio Tour Building across from the Information Center (rentals available inside the Information Center during the winter months). The tour and accompanying brochure are available in English, French, German, Lakota, and Spanish.
Hours for Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Hours All Park - Mount Rushmore grounds - early March through September Weather permitting, the grounds at Mount Rushmore are open every day of the year. The Information Center, Visitor Center, Gift Shop and Carver's Marketplace are open every day except December 25th.
Beginning August for Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center, Mount Rushmore Bookstores and museums as we as the Information Center will close at 9:00PM. Activities at Heritage Village and Youth Exploration Area will end for the summer season.
Bookstore will close at 8:00PM Carver's Marketplace will close at 8:00PM
Pricing for Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore Parking Fee - private vehicles - $10.00
Parking fee is for private passenger vehicles, valid for one year from date of purchase. Parking fee for Seniors, 62 and older, is $5 and Active Duty Military parking is free. Annual Pass, Annual Pass - Military, Senior Pass, Access Pass and Every Kid In A Park Pass do not apply.
FAQ for Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Accessibility For Mobility Impairments (Wheelchairs) Vehicles are able to unload mobility-impaired visitors in front of the main entryway and then park in the parking lot (fee area). Wheelchairs are available for loan at the Information Center on a first-come, first-served basis.
Amphitheater and Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center Elevators are accessible from the Grand View Terrace to the museum lobby and Amphitheater.
Sculptor's Studio Depending on security issues, the Sculptor's Studio is wheelchair accessible from the remote parking area. Check with the ranger in the Information Center.
Trails The Presidential Trail is surfaced to accommodate wheelchairs from the Grand View Terrace to viewing areas at the base of the mountain.
Carvers Café and Gift Shop The Carvers Café and Gift Shop are wheelchair accessible.
Weather Weather at Mount Rushmore can be highly variable in any season. Summer high temperatures range from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall high temperatures range from 45 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter high temperatures range from 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring high temperatures range from 30 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. July and August are the warmest months, December and January the coldest. March and April receive the most snow, while May and June receive the most rain.
Sculptor's Studio closed until May, 2019
Due to a year long renovation and rehabilitation project, the Sculptor's Studio will be closed until May, 2019. The Presidential Trail from the studio to the mountain and to the Borglum View Terrace are also closed during this project.