Mount Rushmore National Memorial is truly impressive and inspirational, especially for Americans. It consists of four (4) American presidents sculpted out of a massive granite cliff. The heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are all 20 meters (60 feet) tall and can be viewed from across a valley. The sculpture is floodlit at night so is particularly beautiful after dark. The Visitor Center offers a film about the carving of the sculptures, and Gutzon Borghum’s workshop, accessible via a trail from the viewing area, displays some of the tools used and models of the construction. It took Borghum and his crew 14 years to complete the project.
A nearby attraction which will surely impress visitors is Badlands National Park which lies just south of Interstate 90, east of Mount Rushmore, in the western part of South Dakota. It preserves acres and acres of colorful stratified clay deposits. The area is accessible via the Badlands Loop Road which offers numerous viewpoints to observe the unusual landscape.
The Crazy Horse Memorial on US Route 16/385, just north of Custer, South Dakota, will eventually be the world’s largest sculpture, with a height of 190 meters (562 feet) and a length of 215 meters (641 feet), when it is completed. Work was begun in 1948. As of today, the face of the Indian Chief is completed while work on his horse continues.
Custer State Park with its dramatic Needles Highway (State Route 87) is one of the premier state parks in the United States. It offers access to the Black Hills area of South Dakota and its abundant wildlife, including a large herd of bison.
The Needles Highway, a dramatic and interesting scenic drive, is a 22 km (14-mile) trip through unusual granite spires of rock. There are several narrow tunnels, and hairpin turns so large vehicles must use extreme caution. Vistas of the Black Hills are available at pullouts along the drive.
Deadwood, South Dakota, west of Mount Rushmore, is a former gold rush boom town and cowboy town turned gambling Mecca. Deadwood is the last resting place of Wild Bill Hickok, one of the West’s most colorful gunfighters, who was killed during a poker game in Deadwood, in the year 1876. There are several museums and other venues which celebrate and vilify his notorious past.
Wind Cave National Park, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, preserves a natural, underground, limestone cavern whose name derives from the strong winds which blow into and out of the cave at various times, due to atmospheric pressure differences. Visitors may choose between a number of Ranger-led cave tours, based on how strenuous they are and their length. The Garden of Eden Tour is probably the least exerting and lasts approximately 1 hour.