So you thought Mount Rushmore was big! Well, wait until you see Crazy Horse Memorial. This memorial, paid for by private donations, not public ones, is worth more than a drive by. Not only is there a sculpted monument in progress to observe (you can take a bus to get near the site), there are museums and gift shops as well.
How big is the carving? Imagine a 35-foot tall hand or a 219-foot tall horse’s head. Crazy Horse’s head is 87 feet 6 inches high. When complete, the entire carving will be 641 feet long by 563 feet high! (The faces of Mount Rushmore are just 60 feet high.)
And why is it there? Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear asked Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor who assisted Gutzon Borglum on Mount Rushmore, to create a monument “to honor the culture, tradition, and living heritage of North American Indians.” According to the website, “Native American leaders chose Crazy Horse for the Mountain Carving because he was a great and patriotic hero. Crazy Horse’s tenacity of purpose, his modest life, his unfailing courage, and his tragic death set him apart and above the others.”
Work on the world’s largest mountain sculpture officially began on June 3, 1948 and continues. In 1976, the Indian Museum of North America opened which includes artifacts and art from a variety of American Indian cultures. In 1996, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center was added. It includes artifact collections and Native American vendors and artisans.
Cost of admission is $11 or $28 per carload. It’s an extra $4 to take the bus up close to the bottom of the mountain. Crazy Horse Memorial is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) foundation.
Trip taken July 2013.
Growing up in California, my friends could never understand why I wanted to go to South Dakota. As far as they were concerned, it was in the middle of the country where there was nothing to do. But I knew they were wrong. Besides the fact that my grandparents lived there, I loved it. South Dakota offered things my hometown and home state didn’t: prairies of undulating grasses, buffalo, real cowboys, Native Americans, and lots of space.
In South Dakota, I could ride horseback on my uncle’s horses, pick choke cherries along the Missouri River, go swimming in the Oahe Dam, eat buffalo burgers, go to a rodeo, and visit a palace made of corn.
So, here’s a list of 10 places to go and things to do in South Dakota, listed from east to west across the state. Written by someone who’s got roots in South Dakota. Stay tuned for more details in future blog posts.
- The Corn Palace: Over 275,000 ears of corn are used each year to create a mural on the exterior of the Corn Palace located in Mitchell. The palace is open year round and is free to visit.
- Pierre and Fort Pierre: With its two lakes, the Missouri River, and over 2,200 miles of shoreline, the area offers plenty of swimming, boating, fishing. Learn about South Dakota’s history at the South Dakota Heritage Museum or the Casey Tibbs Museum and be sure to visit the Fort Pierre Rodeo on the 4th of July.
- Wall Drug Store: Originally just a drug store, this rambling place now sells everything from laminated placemats to cowboy boots. If you’re hungry, you can get a buffalo burger or ice cream along with a free glass of water and a 5 cent cup of coffee.
- Badlands National Park: Visit this expanse of mixed grass prairie and geologic deposits, where ancient animals once roamed. Here you can see buffalo and prairie dogs. You might even see archaelogists at work in one of the world’s richest fossil beds.
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial: One of the more famous sculptures in the world, Mount Rushmore includes the faces of four American presidents in its granite face.
- Crazy Horse Memorial: In addition, to the actual sculpture of Crazy Horse, the memorial includes museums and collections of Native American art and artifacts.
- Deadwood: In this national historic landmark, you can see a reenactment of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok, visit the grave of Calamity Jane, gamble in its gaming halls, and visit Tatanka, Kevin Costner’s tribute to the buffalo.
- Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument: If you like spelunking, South Dakota has two easily accessible caves worth a visit. Both offer a variety of ranger led tours, some more adventurous and more strenuous than others.
- Custer State Park: Located in the Black Hills near Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park has 1,300 buffalo on its 71,000 acres. You can camp or stay at a lodge, swim in Sylvan Lake, drive the twisty Needles Highway, or hike the state’s highest peak (Harney Peak).
- The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, SD: The Mammoth Site is an active paleontological dig site and includes the largest concentration of mammoth remains in the world. On your visit, you can see real paleontologists at work, dig for fossil replicas, learn proper excavation techniques, or learn an ancient paleo Native American hunting technique.
Enjoy your trip to South Dakota!
Multiple trips taken, most recently in 2013.