Sort of....but more on that later. Actually, our next stop was Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. Carved between 1927 and 1941, Mount Rushmore was never actually completed. The artists original plans called for President Washington's coat to be carved almost to his waist, Roosevelt's chest to be carved also, and only a few of President Lincoln's fingers were completed. Carving ended with the death of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, and the beginning of WWII. Borglum's plans also included plans for a Hall of Records, a giant granite room behind Lincoln's head that would have inscriptions carved into the walls and house historic and relevant documents relating to the history of the US. This also was never completed and the general public does not have access to this space.
Originally proposed as a way of bringing tourists to South Dakota's Black Hills, Mount Rushmore now includes an avenue of flags, visitors center and artist studio where Borglum did most of his sculpting and design work. The studio also has a scale model of what Borglum envisioned the completed carving to be and offers the best view of the sculpture on the mountain. We enjoyed a ranger led walk along the Presidents Trail which takes you as close to the mountain as you are now allowed to go and also down to Borglum's last studio. It is a beautiful hike and also fascinating to see how the expressions on the faces of the Presidents change as the sun moves across and the mountain is viewed from different angles.
Here's a fun fact about Mount Rushmore, Thomas Jefferson was originally to the left of George Washington as you face the mountain. As carving progressed it was discovered that there was insufficient rock in that part of the mountain to complete the face and also a crack in the mountain running across Jefferson's nose. So, he was blasted off and moved to the other side.
Compared to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse is huge. Unlike Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument continues to be a work in progress and when completed will be the world's largest mountain carving. Begun in 1948 when Chief Standing Bear of the Lakota Tribe invited Korczak Ziolkowski, a well known sculptor who had worked on Mount Rushmore, to return to the Black Hills and carve a monument that would honor the North American Indian People. To date, Crazy Horse continues to be a private monument and has never accepted any government support. It is funded on entry fees, gift shop revenues and private donations. Ziolkowski passed away in 1982, but 7 of his 10 children continue to work on various aspects of the project and his wife Ruth runs the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.
When completed Crazy Horse will stand 563 feet tall and 641 feet wide. The monument will be visible from all sides of the mountain and the entire project includes extensive plans for museums, cultural centers and educational institutions with a scholarship program for Native Americans. Most of the carving is done by blasting away huge chunks of the mountain. Crazy Horses face is finished, and they are currently working on his hand and beginning work on the horses head. Carving on the hand and fingers is projected to be completed in the next 5 years. The horses head could take the next 15 - 20 years.
We spent quite a bit of time in the Museum which houses many works of Native American art and artifacts as well as a childrens area and a beautifully painted tipi. The buildings that house the visitors center and museum are built from the stone that has been blasted off the mountain and there is a section dedicated to the Ziolkowski Family and how they lived when they first came to the Black Hills to carve the monument. At one point, visitors could walk up the mountain and out onto Crazy Horses arm, but as blasting has progressed that area has been closed to visitors. There is a bus tour available that takes tourists fairly close to the base of the mountain.
A quick note about planning a trip like this. If your going to be spending a couple of days in one area, take a quick peek at the local chamber of commerce website to see if there may be any festivals or other big summer events occurring during your stay. We didn't do that, and as we had made campground reservations well in advance with no problem, were surprised when we arrived in the Black Hills on the first day of the 2012 SturgisMotorcycle Rally. In Custer City, we were greeted by General Custer on the sidewalk waving to incoming tourists and a main road with a row of motorcycles parked down the center. Our campground was in Hill City South Dakota and by or first full day there the main street was closed to all traffic except motorcycles. I have never seen so many motorcycles before in my life! They were parked solidly along both sides of the road with a double row parked down the middle. In all honesty though, it ended up being a very neat experience. The bikes are beautiful, and no two are exactly alike. We walked the main street in Hill City one evening, and stopped in the Harley Davidson shop where the boys each picked out a t-shirt. We met a lot of really nice people at the campground and in town and other than a few traffic challenges had a really great time!