Mount Rushmore and the Central Hills
Mount Rushmore is an enduring testimony to American exploration, expansion, unity, and preservation. Started in 1927 and completed in 1941, these faces of four presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt—were created by 400 workers, who toiled to carve them into the hard granite mountain.
The creators of the monument picked the location well. Gorgeous lakes, spires, and pine-covered peaks surround Mount Rushmore, offering numerous outdoor activities and winding mountain drives.
Hill City and Keystone are a few miles from Mount Rushmore, to the west and east, respectively. Each has seen its share of boom and bust cycles; first it was gold, then mica, then tin, and then a long period of economic recession. When it was time to find a location for the monument, the fact that Keystone had a road, electricity, and a rail line in place clearly made a positive impression.
Mount Rushmore brought life back to both communities, but each has evolved in its own direction. Keystone, closest to the monument, is action central, filled with gift shops, restaurants, and attractions. Hill City has evolved into a quaint, charming arts center in the hills.
As the biggest city in the area, Rapid City is the urban heart of the Black Hills. Initially created to serve as the commercial center for the mining towns of the Northern Hills, Rapid made a concerted run to become the “Queen City of the Plains.” It lost the title (and subsequent population growth) to Denver, but as a result of its efforts, the rich historic district has much to offer visitors. Cozy pubs, fine dining, art galleries, and boutique shopping are all within easy walking distance.
Centrally located, and with the only commercial airport in the region, Rapid City frequently serves as the start and end point of a Black Hills vacation.
© Laural A. Bidwell from Moon Mount Rushmore & the Black Hills, 1st Edition