Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘South Dakota’

Hundreds of Black Bears Roam Bear Country USA

Stay in your car! Don’t feed the bears! Here at Bear Country USA in the Black Hills of South Dakota, drive your vehicle down a three mile path to get up-close views of bears and more.  Although you will find virtually every large animal in the Rockies here:  elk, moose, bobcats, bighorn sheep, wolves and more, the bears seem to be the big drawing card.  Over 200 Black Bears , “the largest privately owned collection of black bears in the world”, make their home here at Bear Country.

Driving through towering pines and rolling meadows, signs suggest that observers keep their windows rolled up. The animals are all very calm and seem oblivious to all the cars going through their home. It almost seems that they stop and pose for pictures along the way. Playing in the pond seems to be a great way to cool off on a warm summer day. You never have to worry about danger here, if you follow the rules.

What a thrill to be driving very slowly down the trail and have a black bear approach your vehicle. Imagine a large black bear looking in the window of your car. Then feel the car rock just a little as he rubs up against the side.  It is wise not to feed the animals as the bears will be hunting for more.  They may even scratch your car to try and get in, if tempted by food.

Opened in 1972 with just eleven black bears and a couple other animals, the wildlife area is still owned and operated today by children of Doc and Pauline Casey.  When the bear cubs are born in January, these are the people that take the cubs from the mother in March and bottle feed them for six to eight weeks. Thus they are gentle animals when left at Bear Country USA. However, some are sold to a local zoo or even a movie studio since they are easily manageable animals.  Of course, the Caseys also help raise the young of all the other Rocky Mountain creatures that inhabit the area.

Watching the bears amble alongside your car, the drive moves leisurely. Often it is desirable to stop and watch their antics. A favorite spot is Babyland since here you can actually get out of your vehicle for a closer look at baby animals that have been born right here at the drive-through wildlife park. Cuddly cubs  frolic in the pool and climb trees while wolf and coyote pups watch the action.

How many bear cubs can you see in the tree? Climbing trees is something Black Bears enjoy and with their curved claws are able to climb quickly and easily. Sometime they even take an afternoon nap in the branches. The hardest part of the trip may be getting everyone away from the black bear cubs and back into the car.

Enjoyed all the animals, but especially the bears. If you really enjoy seeing bears close-up, this is a great place to take a drive. That little kid in most of us will enjoy the ride.

Bear Country USA is located eight miles south of Rapid City, South Dakota right along Highway 16.  Don’t forget to visit Mount Rushmore nearby.


The Crazy Horse Memorial : Never Forget Your Dreams

A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. ~ Crazy Horse

In the Black Hills of South Dakota at Crazy Horse Memorial, the beginning of the largest mountain carving in the world sets in the glowing sunlight high on a mountain top, or perhaps it is the shining spirit of Crazy Horse that lights up the sky. This memorial to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians was started back in 1948 inside an army surplus tent.

Rattling Blanket Woman gave birth to a son, Cha-O-Ha, later called Crazy Horse, in this Black Hills region. Crazy Horse was a legendary Lakota Sioux hero, who was a true leader of his people for his  time on earth of approximately thirty-five years. His short life  was devoted to serving his people through caring for the children, the elderly and the sick. In the late 1800s, Crazy Horse attempted to defend the Indian lands from encroachment by the US Federal Government. He is best remembered for being one of the leaders in a war party, inspired by visions of Sitting Bull, which  led to the defeat of General Custer at The Battle of Little Bighorn, or as the Indians called it, The Battle of the Greasy Grass.  “All we wanted was peace and to be left alone,” were among the last words of Crazy Horse.

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work in 1940 designing Crazy Horse to be carved in the granite of Thunderhead Mountain. Korczak originally worked with Gutzon Borglum in the carving of Mount Rushmore, but left the area for a while to serve in World War II where he took part in the Normandy Invasion. Upon his return, he was approached by Chief Henry Standing Bear to design the statue of Crazy Horse because “Indian chiefs would like white man to know the red man has great heroes too. ”

The statue of Crazy Horse astride his horse, Vice Ganda, will stand 563 feet tall when completed. The horse’s head itself is 22 stories high, while Crazy Horse’s head is nine stories tall.  All four heads on Mount Rushmore would fit in the head of Crazy Horse. No wonder it has taken so long to complete!

Seems that Korczak loved sculpting as this was just one of his many projects.  The list is quite impressive and includes: Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Noah Webster, Wild Bill Hickok, and Chief Henry Standing Bear just to name a few of his major works. Another creation is a plaster model of the Crazy Horse mountain carving which is 1/34 scale and located on the main grounds. With some help from his sons, Korczak even carved a tomb for his final resting place at the base of the Crazy Horse sculpture where he remains today after his death in 1982. The epitaph reads: KORCZAK Storyteller in Stone.

This project has many dreams as seen in this illustration from the Master Plans of Crazy Horse Memorial. A poem written by Korczak will be carved in the side of the mountain in letters three feet high. To encourage education, American Indian Training and Medical University Center will be along the Avenue of the Chiefs.

This is a grand work in progress and they rely on fees for entry to the site and donations to continue and complete. The Crazy Horse Foundation decided  this was a project for the public and has never received government funds. While visiting there be sure to explore the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, the home of sculptor Korczak, gift shops and restaurant.

A plaster model made to a 1/1200 scale sets on my mantel as a reminder of the courage and caring nature of Crazy Horse. Sculptor Korczak left us these words of wisdom:

“When the legends die, the dreams end;  When the dreams end, there is no more greatness. Don’t forget your dreams.”                                                                          

Today his wife, Ruth, and their ten children continue developing his dream. The spirit of Crazy Horse still challenges young men to be the warriors of their generation by getting an education.

Crazy Horse Memorial is located five miles north of Custer, South Dakota on US 16 -385. Admission at this time is $10 per adult or you can take a carload for $27. Free admission is given to: children under age six, Native Americans, active military personnel, scouts in uniform, and Custer County, South Dakota residents. While in the area visit Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park nearby.

American History Shall March Along That Skyline

Six Grandfathers Mountain, now known as Mount Rushmore, was spiritual home to the Lakota Sioux Indians. Many of the Sioux were insulted by the building of the Memorial on their sacred land. Add to that the fact that the monument celebrates the Europeans, who killed so many of their tribesmen as well as appropriating their land, and it is no wonder there is still controversy between the Sioux and the US government today.

As far back at 1923, the people of the Black Hills region of South Dakota were searching for an idea to bring tourists to their part of the country. After seeing samples of carvings done by Gutzon Borglum, he was invited by historian Doane Robinson, The Father of Mount Rushmore, to the Black Hills so they could find an acceptable place for a large carving.  After dismissing the idea of using the Needles range, they settled on the granite faced Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota. The granite was relatively free of fractures, and it also faced southeast for more sun exposure. When the selection was made, sixty year old Borglum remarked, “American history shall march along that skyline.”

For one hour each evening, Mount Rushmore, The Presidents’ Mountain, is illuminated with steadily increasing lights that make this carving glow in brilliant splendor. The four presidential faces shown on this 1989 postcard are from left to right: George Washington, the father of our country; Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Constitution, and instrumental in the Louisiana Purchase; Theodore Roosevelt, champion of conservation; and Abraham Lincoln, leader during the Civil War.

Today we can see the results of Gutzon Borglum’s  guidance of approximately four hundred workers, including his son,  from 1927-1941.  The four sixty foot likenesses of the faces rest on 1,278 acres. Original plans were to sculpt them down to the waists, but that idea was cancelled due to insufficient funds. Upon his death, Gutzon’s son, Lincoln Borglum, was in charge of completing the project, but he basically left it as the monument appeared upon his father’s death.

Today you can visit the Lincoln Borglum Museum where a film provides an introduction to the memorial site plus historic exhibits.  Take a lunch break at Carvers’  Cafe where you might find on the menu tasty dishes such as Jeffersonian Gourmet Salad or Teddy’s Bison Chili. If you are lucky, you can sit at a table by the large wall of windows, which provides a great view of Mount Rushmore. The Sculptor’s Studio displays the unique plaster models used prior to sculpting on the mountain side, as well as the tools used while carving. A recent addition is the Native American Heritage Village devoted to Indian culture and the Indians’ place in local history.

For another close-up view of the mountain, take the scenic chairlift ride through the Ponderosa pines. Views are spectacular and there is a park at the summit as well as a small outdoor grille.  You must be careful getting on and off as the chairlift stops for no one.  You do get a unique view of the presidential faces as well as enjoying the feeling of flying up the mountainside on the chairlift. Coming down you can either return on the chairlift or descend on the Alpine Slide.  This new slide is 2000 feet long and you are able to control the speed downhill on a wheeled sled with brakes. So it is up to you!  Either take a slow and leisurely ride down, or get a rush of excitement.

On the side of the mountain behind the faces is an interesting tunnel called the Hall of Records. In 1998, they began construction of a vault there that would hold sixteen porcelain enamel panels.  On these panels are: text of The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, biographies of the four presidents, and a short history of the United States.  All this is being done to preserve our present history for future generations. At this time, the Hall of Records is not accessible to the public.

Here at Mount Rushmore, you and your family can have a great educational experience by learning about the Indian heritage as well as the significance of the four faces carved there. Leaving the park, there was an interesting view from the back road where it appeared that George Washington was keeping watch on everything with eyes eleven feet across. The pupils of each eye are made of granite so they appear to twinkle when the sun hits them.  Maybe that is the reason the eyes seem to follow you!  Join the nearly three million people who visit here each year to see the faces march along the skyline.

Mount Rushmore Memorial in western South Dakota can easily be reached off I-90 off Exit 57 to Highway 16, which goes to Keystone. At Keystone take Highway 244 to the Mount Rushmore entrance. 

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