Mount Rushmore started out as the elaborate vision of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. His ridiculed vision went on to become a great and beloved monument. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located 23 miles southwest of Rapid City. It is impressive as it is breathtaking. The granite faces of the four presidents tower 5,500 feet above sea level and are scaled to men who would stand 465 feet tall (each head is as tall as a six-story building!
Mount Rushmore was sculpted with dynamite and cost $989,992.32 to create, an astounding amount of money for the time. Borglum began work on his creation in 1927 and continued for 14 years until his death in 1941. Most people do not know that Mount Rushmore is actually an "unfinished" work. Borglum had intended for the figures of the presidents to be carved in detail to the waist. However, he did accomplish his dream of what a national memorial should be--"A nation's memorial should, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt, have a serenity, a nobility, a power that reflects the gods they have become."
Today, Mount Rushmore is fully equipped to handle the many visitors that arrive each year. The Park Service has half finished the all-new Presidential Trail, a concrete and plank walkway which takes visitors among the blast fragments at the base of the monument, an area never before open to the public. In May 1997, a brand new 2,000-seat amphitheater, replacing the previous theater which only seated 850, will be completed below the main viewing terraces. This new theather will be greatly appreciated by future visitors, for the most spectacular program at Mount Rushmore is the evening lighting ceremony. In the pines nightly at 9:00 pm sharp, a ranger begins with a 20 minute movie about the mountain's history. Then, with the strains of the "Star Spangled Banner" in the background, "huge banks of floodlights dramatically reveal the four presidential faces, stark white against the black, starry Dakota sky. It's enough to bring twinges of patriotism into the heart of any red-blooded American, and many in the audience are moved to tears." (SD Vacation Guide) Mount Rushmore remains lighted every evening until 10:30 pm.