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Mount Rushmore - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

The towering symbol of US democracy at Mount Rushmore has just celebrated 75 controversial years just recently. If you go to see this fantastic work then don’t forget about Crazy Horse, why, read on and find out.

The figures were carved into the 1, 744m high granite cliffs to make the Mount Rushmore National Memorial stand literally head and shoulders above South Dakota’s Black Hills range. The sculpted faces of US presidents Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Jefferson look as imperious today as when they were first sculpted just over 75 years ago. Very few of the three million people who visit each year realise the historic bloody past of the monument. In 1876, the US Army began a two-year war with the Lakota Sioux over the Black Hills which were an area that was sacred to the tribe. Naturally, the might of the US army won through.

So the big question that people ask is why did they build there? Given that there are so many other mountainous area that they could have chosen. The answer is Tourism.

It was all the idea of historian Doane Robinson, as a way of boosting South Dakota’s visitor numbers. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his 400 strong team carved the memorial over a period of 14 years, finally finishing it in 1941. The Native American community meanwhile were irate at the victor’s ‘desecration’ of the landscape. The carving team decided that they would use dynamite to blast away large pieces of rock. This was used along with a technique known as ‘honeycombing’, where holes are drilled close together before smaller segments of granite are removed by hand. Over the years as interest in the site grew, a visitor centre, museum and walking trail were opened.

If you want to pay it a visit then it is best viewed by walking the winding 1km trail. This lets you see the monument from lots of different angles. However ,make sure that you then head back at nightfall to see it bathed in light. In nearby Rapid City’s Journey Museum might still be a feature on the memorial’s history but there were plans to move it.

There is more to see and a visit to the Native American side of the story is a trip worth taking. In ba elated response, Crazy Horse, one of the leaders in the fight against the US forces, is now being immortalised in his own, larger cliff side memorial, just a short drive from Mount Rushmore. It depicts the Oglala Lakota leader riding a horse and pointing to the distance. The sculpture is still a work in progress but a powerful symbol nonetheless. If you are in the area on Native Americans’ Day, which is October 10th, then it will be celebrated in South Dakota, with observances held at the Crazy Horse site.

Beyond the two memorials why not explore the Black Hills themselves. Its walking and biking trails offer a chance to spot bison, white-tailed deer and lots of other wildlife among its peaks and streams.

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