We planned our trip out to Yellowstone to take us by the Badlands and Mount Rushmore. The Black Hills of South Dakota seemed like a great place to explore so we planned for a three day stay in Keystone.
One of the premier attractions in the area is undoubtably Mount Rushmore National Monument. The brainchild of South Dakota Historian, Doane Robinson who had read about sculpturer, Gutzon Borglum’s work at Stone Mountain in Georgia. The original idea was to sculpt the “Needles” in the area into the faces of Lewis and Clark, Chief Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody. He hoped to attract tourists to the area. Borglum deemed the granite in the needles too poor to work with. He found Mount Rushmore and proposed a national focus instead of local figures.
Borglum never completed his work at Stone Mountain but, the techniques he developed there were deployed successfully at Rushmore. Basically, he sculpted models where one inch on the model would equal one foot on the mountain. He used a pointer to locate points in three dimensions on the model and translate each point to the mountain.
Overall, the four figures are quite impressive to behold. The eyes have depth and realism. Even more amazing are the glasses on the Roosevelt figure.
We stayed at the K Bar S Lodge in Keystone which even provided Mount Rushmore views from our building in the evening. The lodge is in the woods and tucked up next to a mountain. Each morning we saw mule deer and wild turkeys on the grounds while we ate breakfast.
Rail tracks that run from Hill City, SD to Keystone cross the K Bar S property. This gave us a perfect opportunity to photograph the “1880 Train”. Locomotive #110 shown here is the only operational Baldwin 2-6-6-2T Mallet in the world. We couldn’t resist walking down to the tracks one day and taking some images of the train.
While Mount Rushmore is a national monument and well known around the world, we were captivated by Needles Highway and Custer State Park.
Peter Norbeck was the South Dakota governor who championed Mount Rushmore and obtained federal funding for the project. He also pushed for the creation of Needles Highway which is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Some of the tunnels were oriented to point directly toward and frame Mount Rushmore.
It’s easy to see why Doane Robinson wanted to create sculptures from the needles in the Black Hills. Many of these naturally eroded spires already look like human figures or animals. This one looked like some sort of guardian to me.
This needle reminded us of Snoopy or maybe the Sphinx. After a while your imagination runs wild like when staring at clouds. There’s something interesting at every turn.
I could imagine this stone figure having a conversation with the nearby tree. Who knows what they may be discussing!
These needles look like something from Easter Island.
I liked the juxtaposition here between the dead tree, cloud, live tree and the needle figures.
While we were marveling at the needles my sister in law, Barb, spotted a Mountain Goat high above us. There are only 24 or so of these animals in the entire Custer State Park so this was a very special sighting.
We saw our first pronghorn in Custer State Park and found them to be quite plentiful throughout South Dakota and later in Wyoming. These critters are very cool and FAST. They have 13 separate gaits and can run as fast as 55 mph. They are second only to the Cheetah in top speed but, they can run much longer distances.
The little Prairie Dog may be a rodent but, they sure are cute.
How can you not love these little guys?
Here’s Mr Coyote.
He loves Prairie Dogs…especially for dinner. He’s on the prowl for one right now.
Bison are numerous in the Black Hills. This large male likely weighs close to a ton.
Time for a little drink from mom.
We throughly enjoyed our visit to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mount Rushmore may have brought us to the area but, Needles Highway and Custer State Park will likely bring us back. It’s a stunningly beautiful part of our great country and worth much more than the meager three days we could afford to spend there.
But, we have to move on toward Yellowstone.