Five Favorites: Mount Rushmore

Five Favorites: Mount Rushmore


Mt. Rushmore

Somewhere in the black mining hills of South Dakota there lives Mount Rushmore. Let’s explore five cool things at Rushmore and the surrounding area!


Take the Presidential Trail for a closer look

The trail is a loop, so you have a choice between two starting points. The path to the left (as you face Rushmore) is much easier on the way up. The path to the right is a steep walk with 422 stairs, but it’s paved and shaded most of the way. Much better walk this side of the loop on the way down.


Stop by the Sculptor’s Studio

The presidents had bodies in the original plan? Once inside the studio, you can’t miss the 1/12 scale model of Mount Rushmore. This is the place where sculptor Guzton Borglum worked from 1939 to 1941.


The Space Between the Rocks

We snapped this picture while on the Presidential Trail. We crawled into a space between two large rocks and looked up to see this.


Be sure to see the Crazy Horse Memorial

Down the road from the presidents, you’ll find another memorial–this one dedicated to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse. It’s a work in progress and much larger than Mount Rushmore. In fact, the presidents’ four heads could fit on Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm.


Test your driving skills (and nerves) on the Needles Highway

Jokes aside, this is one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever experienced. It took about an hour or so. The environment in Custer State Park is just phenomenal. Get out and explore at stops along the way. But be ready, the road gets very narrow with a couple of one-way tunnels that really tested this Illinoisan’s nerve. Iron Creek Tunnel is about 9′ wide and 11” tall.

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What is written on Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone?

What is written on Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone?


The above words are inscribed on Thomas Jefferson’s gravestone.  Where is “Third President of the United States of America?”  Before his death, Thomas Jefferson left specific instructions for a monument to be constructed on his grave site.  In reference to the words to be placed on his gravestone, Jefferson said, “On the faces of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more.”1  He continued by writing, “because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

Why didn’t Thomas Jefferson rank “U.S. President” as one of his top three most memorable moments?  Overall, historians view Thomas Jefferson quite favorably as president – on his worst day he’s still in the top ten.  He appears on our money, on Mount Rushmore, and he’s got one of the best memorials in D.C.  In fact, one line from Jefferson’s resume would get a person in the history books.

“because by these, as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

Perhaps the three accomplishments on Jefferson’s gravestone are what he views as his best.  The fact that he left explicit instructions for his gravestone’s inscription demonstrates Jefferson’s need to exert some control over his legacy.  Independence, religious freedom, and education.  You can’t argue with those ideas.

Original gravestone, Courtesy of the University of Missouri

Jefferson’s family erected the obelisk gravestone in 1833.2  The original gravestone was eventually replaced due to visitors chipping off pieces of the it for souvenirs.  In 1882 Congress okayed a measure to provide funds to replace Jefferson’s original gravestone.  The original obelisk was donated to the University of Missouri at Columbia – where it now resides.

July 4, 1826

Just months after Jefferson wrote instructions for his gravestone, he passed away.  According to the Monticello website, Jefferson’s last words cannot be determined with certainty.3  Jefferson’s last recorded words are “No, doctor, nothing more.”  However, some believe that Jefferson’s last words were “Is it the Fourth?” or “This is the Fourth of July.”  In any case, Thomas Jefferson passed away on the 50th anniversary of July 4, 1776 – arguably the most important date in American history.  Jefferson was not alone.  In fact, in Quincy, Massachusetts, John Adams passed away on the same day at the age of 90.  Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  He was mistaken.  Jefferson had actually died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 82.4

Gravestone photos by PJ Creek

Google Maps

Go to Jefferson’s Grave.


“MU Teams with Smithsonian to Save Original Jefferson Tombstone Marker”


The Library of Congress: Thomas Jefferson Exhibit

Monticello website: Jefferson’s Gravestone

Monticello Website: Jefferson’s Last Words This Day in History – July 4

© 2021 Periodic Presidents, PJ and Jamie Creek