Although the Black Hills of South Dakota are generally thought of as a Memorial Day through October vacation destination, several National Park Service sites are open all year including Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
“The winter is a calm time and not as cold as you’d expect,” said Blaine Kortemeyer, Deputy Director of Interpretation and Education. “Our staff is smaller in the wintertime, but we offer all the same attraction features with the exception of guided walks and talks.”
Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum is quoted as saying “The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation and unification of the United States with colossal statues of (George) Washington, (Thomas) Jefferson, (Abraham) Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”
During the winter months park rangers help communicate this message by visiting schools in the Black Hills area and teaching students about the four presidents honored as well as other American history lessons. “But it’s not just social studies,” Kortemeyer said. “We also cover the Black Hills ecosystem, natural history and science.”
At the memorial the visitors and information centers remain open all year and tourists are able to use guided audio tours as well as enjoy an abbreviated evening lighting of Mount Rushmore.
Almost three million visitors from across the country and around the world visit the memorial every year. According to Kortemeyer about 10 percent of this total visit December through March.
No matter what time of year though, visitors come to marvel at the natural beauty of the Black Hills and learn about the birth, growth, development and the preservation of the United States. Mount Rushmore — designated a National Memorial on October 1, 1925 — has become a symbol of America and freedom. Mount Rushmore is one of 394 sites the National Park Service is entrusted to preserve and protect for future generations.
If you go, here are some additional locations and their web sites:
- In addition to Mount Rushmore, Kortemeyer points out there are several other national park service sites remaining open during the winter months in the Black Hill area.
- Jewel Cave National Monument is currently the second longest cave in the world at 157.36 miles. For more information check the website.
- Wind Cave National Park is home to one of the most complex cave systems and nearly 30,000 acres of mixed-grass prairie. For more information check the website.
- Minuteman Missile National Historic Site offers a vivid reminder of the cold war and how the threat of nuclear war came to haunt the world. For more information check the website.
- Badlands National Park is 244,000 acres of rugged beauty and an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets live today. For more information check the website.
- Devil’s Tower National Monument is home to Devils Tower and the surrounding countryside. Here climbers test their skills on vertical rock walls and other visitors can enjoy the activities and beauty offered at the monument. For more information check the website.
- For more information about visiting the Black Hills, check the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau website.