National Parks Tour: Crazy Horse Memorial

Monday, September 6, 2021 (continued)

As Chuck and I were going down the aisle looking for our seat assignment, another couple said “you are in the front!” Surprise! Not expecting to be up front, we had overlooked the name sign, so we backtracked up the aisle. Chuck and I are in the first seat of the bus on the door side. The view out the front window is excellent. We don’t have a long travel day today, but we’ll be first off the bus for the sights (and the bathrooms).

We have not really had a problem sitting anywhere on the bus. The sound system and the video system has worked well so we can hear Al clearly even if we are in the back of the bus.

Crazy Horse Memorial is only 16 miles from the Custer State Park, but it takes about 40 minutes to get there. We went back through the town of Custer, and it wasn’t long before I could spot the Memorial in the distance.

When we arrived, Chuck and I decided to take the shuttle to the base of the Memorial before we toured the Visitor Center. That choice was a good decision because when we got back, the line for the shuttles was very long.

There was no construction going on today as it is Labor Day. However, our guide said that they now have 15 people working on the Memorial – the largest crew they have ever had. They work on any nice day available all year long. But he said there are not that many nice weather days in South Dakota. Today was perfect weather-wise and according to him we got very lucky.

We could see the scaffolding and the heavy equipment up there. He told us that they are currently concentrating their work on the arm of Crazy Horse. He showed us some of the tools that they are using. I was surprised to hear that they use very little dynamite now. Much of the work is very precise.

As he said, it is better to take longer and chip away small bits because it would be very difficult trying to fix a spot where you took out too much. Chuck being very familiar with the granite industry recognized and understood the processes the guide was discussing.

The inevitable question of “when it is going to be finished?” was answered by “we have short-range plans” and “long-range plans” that we are working from, but we don’t have an exact end date. When it is finished, it will be 641 ft long and 563 ft tall.

You can take guided hikes to the top of the Memorial for $125. However, twice a year (September and June) they hold fund-raising 10K hikes and the entrance fee is much cheaper. He has been on three of those hikes.

Hikers follow dirt trails and gravel work roads up to the Crazy Horse Mountain Carving. The turn-around point is on the Arm of Crazy Horse directly in front of the nine-story-high face. The next 10K hike is to be September 26th. Don’t think we will make that one (or any future ones).

The whole complex and its employees is funded by gate fees, sale of items, fund-raisers, and private grants. The sculptor’s family, who run the complex and oversee the construction, have continued to honor his wishes, and have refused both state and federal government funds because they want to avoid any government control.

Al told us that the federal government has funds available for the Lakota tribe but so far, the elders have refused to access it. He told us they believe they will have to cede control of what they have if they ever accept those funds.

Before we left to go back to the Visitor Center, one of the shuttle passengers took out a ram’s horn from his backpack and spent a few minutes blowing it. Mournful sound. He said blowing the horn was a “healing ritual for the nations” that he was doing at as many national parks as he could. Interesting. I hope it helps.

Once we got back from the Memorial, we took time to walk through the Visitor Complex. There were many rooms and exhibits that featured the sculptor, his family, and Native Americans in the complex. We could have spent a much longer time studying the items in each room if we had the time.

There was even a display where you could take a chunk of granite that came from the Memorial with you. Wade would not have been happy if I suddenly stuck a large rock into my already 45-pound suitcase. Some people were getting them. I bought a very light weight Christmas ornament. Don’t think Wade will notice the extra ounce in my bag.

I took random pictures throughout the complex:

Indian Museum of North America:

Veranda Area:

Original Sculptor and Family Log Home Area:

Sculptor at different stages of his life.

Nature Gates (207 Brass Silhouettes of Animals):

We really enjoyed our time here. Would love one day to be able to see the finished Memorial but I’m being overly optimistic.

Next up – Mount Rushmore

Travel Trivia

Crazy Horse Memorial

The purpose of the Crazy Horse Memorial is to honor the culture and traditions of living Native Americans. Its creation was the dream of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski (who had worked with Borglum on Mount Rushmore), and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear. They dedicated the memorial in June of 1948.

It is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain. The elevation on the Mountain is 6,532 feet above sea level and is the 27th highest mountain in South Dakota. It is made of pegmatite granite and was chosen by Ziolkowski and Standing Bear for the Crazy Horse Memorial

Ziolkowski died in 1982. His family buried him in a tomb at the base of the mountain he was carving.

*Trivia provided by Wikipedia, Globus, and Crazy Horse Memorial documents

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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