Mt Rushmore vs Crazy Horse

When we started planning our road trip from the west coast to the east, we knew we had to visit South Dakota. Beth had never been there before, and we expected the many national parks in South Dakota would be worth seeing. High on our list was Mt Rushmore National Memorial.  South Dakota turned out to have a few surprises for us, and one of those was the Crazy Horse Memorial.  If you love monuments carved into mountains, then the Black Hills of South Dakota is the place to be.

Mt Rushmore National Memorial is iconic, and, when we stood on the viewing terrace, it took our breath away from the sheer artistry carved in rock.

All four of the Presidents – Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln – were beautifully carved on Mt Rushmore.

Sixteen miles away is the privately funded Crazy Horse Memorial.  In 1939, an Oglala Lakota chief, Henry Standing Bear, wrote to Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor who worked for a time on Mt Rushmore, requesting that he carve a mountain in the Black Hills with the image of Crazy Horse.  Crazy Horse, a respected leader of the Oglala Lakota, was chosen to symbolize the American Indian for the monument.  The image would be carved into Thunderhead Mountain.

This visitor center photo shows the progress made to date on the carving of Crazy Horse.  When finished, Crazy Horse’s head will be 87’ (27m) compared to the Presidents’ heads at Mt Rushmore that are 60’ (18m) high.

Work continued on Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm after the head was completed.

We spent a long time in the Crazy Horse interpretive center, first looking at art collections and then moving on to the exhibits that explained how the carving is accomplished.

We saw a dancer heading outside, and we followed in time to see a dance performance.

The audience was told that the Lakota dancer’s outfit had been handed down to him from his grandfather.  Porcupine quills made up his breastplate.  The bells on his ankles were for energy.

The Fancy Shawl dance required stamina.

After the performance, we stood on the deck and looked out at Crazy Horse in the distance.

So far away, he seemed so small and it seemed to us a long time before the memorial will be completed.

When we look back at our visits to Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we found the artistry of Mt Rushmore to be the most awe inspiring but the Crazy Horse Memorial to be far superior in its setup, informative interpretive materials, and mission.  It was also less crowded.

As we prepared to leave Crazy Horse, we saw a pile of rocks from the mountain in a bin by the door.  A donation box stood nearby.  We searched for the best and smallest rock; placed a donation in the box; and now we have a cherished souvenir from Thunderhead Mountain.

When we planned the trip, it was Mt Rushmore we wanted to see.  In the end, it will be the Crazy Horse Memorial that we will remember.


August 2018

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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7 Responses to Mt Rushmore vs Crazy Horse

  1. We visited once many years ago, before the monument of Crazy Horse had started. I think it will be spectacular, and I look forward to seeing it in person.

  2. We always visit both monuments. I never get tired of Mt. Rushmore and seeing the small but steady progress on Crazy Horse over the years is fun. And the story behind it is fascinating. Thanks for the post.

  3. Ben says:

    Interesting seeing the progress made on the Crazy Horse monument.

  4. leggypeggy says:

    Thank you for taking me to both places.

  5. This monument will be amazing when it’s completed. I can’t even imagine how they get started on a mammoth task like this.

  6. EmelyeKay says:

    That’s awesome that you got to see the traditional dancer at Crazy Horse. We visited last year and I’m in awe of how huge it will be once complete! 🙂

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