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Disappointing photos show how small Mount Rushmore is in real life

July 6, 2020
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mount rushmoremount rushmore
Many visitors are surprised to find Mount Rushmore appears much smaller in person.

KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images; REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton; Insider

  • Mount Rushmore is one of the most famous monuments in the US, typically attracting 3 million people a year.
  • But the South Dakota sculpture depicting former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln doesn’t always live up to expectations.
  • In real life, the monument appears much smaller than it does in photos.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Visitors typically flock to Mount Rushmore every summer. But they’re often surprised when they get there.” data-reactid=”23″>Visitors typically flock to Mount Rushmore every summer. But they’re often surprised when they get there.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The sculpture of four US presidents doesn’t appear as large in real life as people might think. When viewing the monument from the observation deck, it’s difficult to make out details in the faces.” data-reactid=”24″>The sculpture of four US presidents doesn’t appear as large in real life as people might think. When viewing the monument from the observation deck, it’s difficult to make out details in the faces.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Over the weekend, President Donald Trump made a controversial decision to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display at the monument, and photos from the event showed how small the carved faces looked from the crowds.” data-reactid=”25″>Over the weekend, President Donald Trump made a controversial decision to hold a Fourth of July fireworks display at the monument, and photos from the event showed how small the carved faces looked from the crowds.

These photos show what Mount Rushmore looks like in photos vs. reality.

Mount Rushmore is one of the most famous monuments in the US, and in non-pandemic times it typically attracts around 3 million people a year.

Mount RushmoreMount Rushmore
Mt. Rushmore, in Keystone, South Dakota.

KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Mount Rushmore was built between 1927 and 1941 under the control of designer Gutzon Borglum as a way to bring tourism to the West. Before the monument was built, advocates for a major sculpture in the area proposed carving the faces of local heroes, including Sioux chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.” data-reactid=”40″>Mount Rushmore was built between 1927 and 1941 under the control of designer Gutzon Borglum as a way to bring tourism to the West. Before the monument was built, advocates for a major sculpture in the area proposed carving the faces of local heroes, including Sioux chief Red Cloud, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

But Borglum decided to carve four presidents to make the monument more of a national draw.

But in real life, the monument doesn’t loom as large as it may seem in photos.

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mount rushmore

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Bernell T./Yelp” data-reactid=”54″>Bernell T./Yelp

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Aside from seeing the sculpture itself, the national monument also has hiking trails, a visitor’s center, cafe, Sculptor’s Studio, kid’s play area, and the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village highlighting the thousands of years of Native American history in the area.” data-reactid=”55″>Aside from seeing the sculpture itself, the national monument also has hiking trails, a visitor’s center, cafe, Sculptor’s Studio, kid’s play area, and the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Heritage Village highlighting the thousands of years of Native American history in the area.

In photos we see of the sculpture, the heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln loom large.

Mount RushmoreMount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Each head is a slightly different size, but they're all roughly around 60 feet tall.” data-reactid=”69″>Each head is a slightly different size, but they’re all roughly around 60 feet tall.

But it’s difficult to gauge its full scope from the tourist observation deck.

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A woman walks at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, where the Information Center is closed and all educational and interpretive programs are suspended in Keystone, South Dakota, on April 16, 2020.

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Washington’s mouth is 18 feet across, and it’s difficult to make out in this photo.

Close-up, the 20-foot noses look giant next to a worker dangling during construction in 1936.

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The face of Abraham Lincoln under construction on Mount Rushmore in 1936 with Gutzon Borglum monitoring the work.

US National Park Service

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It took 14 years and around 400 people to build, predominantly&nbsp;using dynamite.” data-reactid=”99″>It took 14 years and around 400 people to build, predominantly using dynamite.

But it’s hard to make out the details of the sculpture in person.

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mount rushmore visitor’s center

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="neighborhoods.org/Flickr” data-reactid=”112″>neighborhoods.org/Flickr

From a distance, it’s difficult to see what each face really looks like.

The Grand View Terrace is about 700 feet from the rock face. To get as close as possible, you have to walk along the Presidential Trail, which is still more than 300 feet away.

Mt. Rushmore tourism Mt. Rushmore tourism
Tourists visit Mount Rushmore National Monument on July 01, 2020 in Keystone, South Dakota. President Donald Trump is expected to visit the monument and speak before the start of a fireworks display on July 3.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

People often complain about how disappointing the monument is in real life.

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mount rushmore

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Madeleine Deaton/Flickr” data-reactid=”139″>Madeleine Deaton/Flickr

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Thrillist reported&nbsp;there are an abundance of pages on TripAdvisor of people complaining about the monument’s "disappointing" size.” data-reactid=”140″>Thrillist reported there are an abundance of pages on TripAdvisor of people complaining about the monument’s “disappointing” size.

Close-up photos of the monument show the detailed features of each president’s face.

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Mt. mount rushmore

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Wikimedia Commons” data-reactid=”153″>Wikimedia Commons

In photos, the monument appears like a grand attraction.

But in real life, you have to make your way through crowds of people to catch a distant look, and use binoculars to really see the detail.

Mount Rushmore tourist photoMount Rushmore tourist photo
tourists take photos of themselves in front of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, on June 10, 2012 outside Keystone, South Dakota.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

During the summer months, Mount Rushmore becomes bustling with tourists looking to take photos of the monument.

On July 3, President Donald Trump held a political rally in front of crowds of people. The monument looks tiny in the distance.

Trump crowd Mt. RushmoreTrump crowd Mt. Rushmore
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive onstage during an Independence Day event at Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Photos showed crowds of people gathering at the foot of the monument, which showed how small the sculpture looks in real life.

Though some photos framed just right make the faces appear somewhat larger than other images.

Trump rushmoreTrump rushmore
US President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives for the Independence Day events at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, July 3, 2020.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Trump gave a speech and held a 4th of July fireworks display at the monument.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”196″>Trump gave a speech and held a 4th of July fireworks display at the monument. 

The monument also sits on contested land. Before Trump’s speech took place, a group of protesters largely comprised of Native Americans held a demonstration against Trump for using sacred land.

protests mount rushmoreprotests mount rushmore
Native American protesters and supporters gather at the Black Hills, now the site of Mount Rushmore, on July 3, 2020 in Keystone, South Dakota.

Micah Garen/Getty Images

Mount Rushmore has long been criticized for being built on Indigenous land. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that the Black Hills were unlawfully taken from Sioux tribe.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Additionally, critics of the sculpture have noted that Borglum had ties to white supremacy with the Ku Klux Klan, and held anti-Semitic beliefs. It has also been noted that Borgum opposed adding any women to the monument.” data-reactid=”211″>Additionally, critics of the sculpture have noted that Borglum had ties to white supremacy with the Ku Klux Klan, and held anti-Semitic beliefs. It has also been noted that Borgum opposed adding any women to the monument.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="So, when Trump announced he would be making a July 3 speech at the controversial monument, protesters gathered to block the road and reject the political event.” data-reactid=”212″>So, when Trump announced he would be making a July 3 speech at the controversial monument, protesters gathered to block the road and reject the political event.

Since it’s nearly 80 years old, the sculpture is also constantly developing new cracks and in need of repair.

mount rushmoremount rushmore
mount rushmore

Library of Congress and Dynamichrome

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Water regularly seeps into the cracks of the mountain and freezes, which causes the granite to fracture.&nbsp; In 2008 alone, 144 cracks were reported along the monument, and the National Park Service has to make repairs every year.” data-reactid=”226″>Water regularly seeps into the cracks of the mountain and freezes, which causes the granite to fracture.  In 2008 alone, 144 cracks were reported along the monument, and the National Park Service has to make repairs every year.

Some things may be better seen from the internet.

mount rushmoremount rushmore
mount rushmore

KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images; REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton; Insider

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read the original article on Insider” data-reactid=”246″>Read the original article on Insider

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