After being wowed by the bears, we made or way to what South Dakota is probably most famous for – Mount Rushmore. Apparently, it’s some rock with 4 presidents carved into it. As we approached it, driving up the mountain, we realised it really isn’t as big as what you imagine. The heads themselves are only 60ft tall. We parked up (at a cost of $11 – it does cover you for a whole year though, if you want to go back more than once!) and walked in. As you approach the cliff face, you are met with a flag from every US state. After taking a few pictures, we jumped back in the car and made our way to the next attraction – Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse is another rock sculpture, which began being carved in 1948 and is still not complete. It is in honour of Crazy Horse the Indian and is supposed to ‘show the white man that the red man have heroes too’. As we approached the memorials gates, we could see it up on the cliff face in the distance and it is massive. It measures 563ft high and means that the president faces on Mount Rushmore fit into the eye of Crazy Horse. We had to pay $22 to get in, which we felt was a bit steep and if you wanted to go right up to the monument, you had to pay another $4 each for a bus. Given that the sculpture isn’t even finished we decided not to fork out the extra money. There is a museum all about the history of Crazy Horse and the culture, so there are lots of things to do for your money. Overall we were slightly disappointed with it and just think they need to get a move on and finish it – then it would make a great tourist attraction.
Our last stop for South Dakota was The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. It’s a museum that homes a working paleontological site of a sinkhole that was created about 26,000 years ago. It’s thought that as the mammoths came to drink water out of the sinkhole, they fell in and couldn’t get out, filling the hole with mammoth bones. Mammoths particularly fascinate me, as when I was a kid I had a set of trump cards that were all about dinosaurs. One of the animals in the pack was the Woolly Mammoth and whenever my Mum and I would play, we knew whoever had the Woolly Mammoth card would always win as no other animal could beat it stats.
Once a year for a month, they dig on the site and uncover new bones. It takes the rest of the year to catalogue them all. Sadly for us, the dig was due to start the following week so we were just slightly too early to see anything being uncovered. When we entered the museum, we were given a ticket to join a tour group. Once our guide arrived he walked us round the site, which was truly fascinating. Altogether there are bones for over 60 different mammoths, all of which are male. Our guide told us that the reason they are all male is because when the baby mammoths are old enough, they are sent away to survive on their own. So the theory is that they would wonder off and fall into the sinkhole. I think that women are just the smarter sex and once they saw one mammoth fall in and be unable to get out, they knew not to go near it themselves! The bones were in such good condition still, that you could see immediately what animals they belonged too. There were a couple that were complete skeletons so you were able to see exactly how big they would have been and the position they fell in when they died.