South Dakota: All the presidents' heads

Seeking spectacular sculpture? South Dakota beckons

You might think a huge, iconic American monument such as Mount Rushmore (where those 60ft-high busts of four US presidents were blasted from a mountainside) would be near one of the country's great cities. You'd be wrong. It is in South Dakota's Black Hills. No disrespect to Rapid City, South Dakota, which is the nearest sizeable urban centre to this National Memorial, but you wouldn't mistake it for, say, New York.

The presidents with the stony stares are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. All did their bit to shape an America whose businesspeople have long been renowned for their marketing skills. So it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that, in this land of discounting and "buy-one-get-one-frees", someone is offering a better deal on presidential attractions.

Just 40 miles from Mount Rushmore is the town of Lead (pronounced "leed"). Born as a result of a gold rush in 1876, Lead is home to the Homestake Mine, which was the largest, deepest (at 8,240ft) and most productive gold mine in the Western Hemisphere before it closed in 2001.

But these days it's about value for money rather than precious metals. Entry to Mount Rushmore National Memorial is free, but car parking there costs $10 (£5.30). Just outside the town of Lead, however, you need pay only $8 (£4.20) to see the giant heads of not four, but all 42 US presidents. And parking is free.

President's Park is the brainchild of artist David Adickes, whose previous work includes a 65ft statue of Sam Houston, first president of (the then Republic of) Texas. (You'll have to go to Adickes's hometown of Huntsville, Texas to see that one.) Adickes first went to visit Mount Rushmore in the early Nineties, and it occurred to him that it was a pity that one couldn't get up close and personal with the heads of States. So he decided to do something about it.

More impatient than Gutzon Borglum – who took 14 years creating Mount Rushmore's four heads – Adickes decided against dynamite and jackhammers. Instead, he used polystyrene and plaster to create moulds in his studio in Texas. White Portland cement was then poured into the moulds (although hollow, each head weighs about 18 tons). The heads were then trucked the 1,150 miles from Houston to Lead. All 42 were completed in less than five years.

Admittedly, the busts are smaller than those at Mount Rushmore (20ft tall rather than 60ft). But does that matter when you can get within touching distance of not only the Rushmorean quartet, but 38 others including Carter, Ford, Clinton and both Bushes? President's Park's 42 heads – each with an information board – have been placed on a 20-acre ponderosa pine-clad hillside. They are arranged chronologically along a winding path. Expect your wander to be accompanied by the gobbling and clucking of wild turkeys foraging for food.

The presidential facts on the info boards are no dry history lesson. Learn, for example, that the second President, John Adams, preferred to bow rather than shake hands; and that Ulysses S Grant set a high-jump record at West Point that lasted 25 years.

There are picnic areas and a snack bar – and mountain bikes can be rented at the park's visitor centre for the seven-mile downhill trail to Deadwood. The entire town of Deadwood is on something called the National Historic Register. Once a hangout for Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, it is now the largest historic preservation project in the US. Hickok's grave is in the Mount Moriah cemetery.

Mount Rushmore apart, President's Park is also within 55 miles of another even more monumental mountain memorial. In 1948, Korczak Ziolkowski began to blast away another mountainside to create the world's largest mountain sculpture, a rendition of Lakota hero Crazy Horse atop his horse. Korczak died in 1982, but his family continue his work. When it's finished (because of factors such as the uncertainty of the weather and financing, it's impossible to predict a completion date) the Crazy Horse carving will measure 636ft by 558ft. The head (which has been finished) is 85ft high; the horse's head will be 216ft high. All four faces on Mount Rushmore would fit into Crazy Horse's head. Crazy Horse's arm will be almost as long as a football pitch.

Shortly after the present race for the White House finishes in November, President's Park will welcome a new arrival. If the artist who will be creating the South Dakota-bound statue has any idea which challenger will be his subject, he's not telling. Adickes (now 81) is presumably patiently preparing his plaster as the presidential polls proceed at a ponderous pace.

STATE LINES: SOUTH DAKOTA

Population: 750,000

Area: nine times the size of Wales

Capital: Pierre

Date in Union: 2 November 1889

Flower: Pasque

Motto: "Under God the people rule"

Nickname: Mount Rushmore State

TRAVELLER'S GUIDE

Getting there

To Rapid City airport, from Heathrow via Denver or Chicago on United Airlines (0845 844 4777; www.unitedairlines.co.uk).



Visiting there

President's Park (001 605 584 9925; www.presidentspark.com). Open mid-April to September, 9am-6pm daily; $8 (£4.20).

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (001 605 574 2523; www.nps.gov/moru). Open 24 May to September, 8am-9pm daily and until 5pm from October to May; free but $10 (£5.30) parking.

Crazy Horse Memorial (001 605 673 4681; www.crazyhorse.org). Daily 7am to dusk; from 8am October- May; $10 (£5.30).



More information

South Dakota Tourism: 001 605 773 3301; www.travelsd.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz