Before I visited South Dakota I had never heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial, but as I was researching what to do when I got to Rapid City I read about this place in a guide.
I knew about Crazy Horse and Lt Colonel Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn as we had studied it in history at school, so I was intrigued to actually be in the area near to where this famous battle had occurred and to go visit the memorial to Crazy Horse.
Crazy Horse was born in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1842 and was a native american. He fought against the US Government who were taking the land and changing the way of life of the native american people.
He is one of the most famous native americans and helped lead the assault against Custer leading to Custer’s death in 1876. He has honoured by the US Postal Service and appeared on a stamp in 1982.
In 1939 Korczak Ziolkowski was asked to carve a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse which eventually began in 1948. Korczak worked mainly on this own, until his death in 1982 when his wife Ruth took over the project, changing the focus to finishing Crazy Horse’s face so the visitors would be able to see this from the visitors centre. 6 of his children and some grandchildren now run the project. There is no completion date known as it all depends on the number of visitors and how much money they get in as to how much work can be done on the mountain. I was told maybe 2050, maybe later!!
I arrived at the memorial late afternoon and went straight to the information desk to find out what there was to do. At that time I had no idea that the memorial itself is so far away from the visitors centre or that it costs to see it closer. I also did not realise that it is not funded by the government and is a non profit foundation as Korczak wished that no federal or state funds would ever be accepted to create the memorial.
The cost of entry is $11 per person or $28 for a car with more than 2 people. If you want to see it closer there are 2 options. The cheapest is $4 and you can get a bus from the visitors centre for a 25 minute round trip, where you get out and see a closer view. The picture below is the closest you get from the $4 trip, but well worth doing as you get an idea of how big it is actually going to be and you can get a good view of the face head on.
Unfortunately on this trip you can’t get too close as it is a live working site and sometimes you can hear them doing detonations depending on the day you visit.
The 2nd option you can actually go and visit the head and face of Crazy Horse and get a close up picture, this trip though does cost $125 and needs to be booked in advance. I have seen pictures of people stood by the face and this is when you realise just how big it actually is as the people are tiny!! I really wanted to go do this, but as a backpacker I just couldn’t justify the cost.
It is the worlds largest mountain carving and just the head of Crazy Horse is 27 feet taller than a head at Mount Rushmore which are 60 feet high. Once it’s finished it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide and it’s something I would love to see as it will look amazing carved into the rock.
After the bus tour, I then went into the visitors centre where I watched the orientation film on the history of the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is worth watching as it shows how Korczak came to live on the site and had his 10 children there, how he had to drag everything up the mountain to do blasts, to carve the rock all on his own, sometimes with the help of his children and how much it has changed now. They now have a team of explosive experts that they can afford to employ run by Korczak’s son and his daughter runs the restaurant.
After watching the film I then went out onto the viewing veranda and watched a traditional native performance while seeing the memorial in the background.
I then had a walk around the museum and shops before stopping in the restaurant for dinner. The food is reasonably priced and as I wanted to stay for the laser light show it made sense to sit in the restaurant looking out at the memorial until it the show started.
After dinner I went and got my spot on the viewing terrace, despite it being summer it still dropped cold on a night, so you would want a jumper!!
The show then commenced and it was great, a history of the native americans, worth seeing if you are in the area and visiting crazy horse. At one point you can see exactly how the memorial will look when it’s completed.
After the show it was then back in the car for the drive back to Rapid City.
Crazy Horse was one of my favourite places to visit on this trip to South Dakota and I did prefer it to Mount Rushmore, it is a lot bigger and a lot more impressive. The history behind it, of one man doing so much of it on his own, the fact that all the money used to create it has not come from any government or state funding but through donations or visitors to the site and it’s a memorial to a native american who was trying to keep his lands and way of life.
If you are in the area then it’s a great place to visit, and hopefully one day I will get to go back and see it when it’s finished.
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