more south dakota!

With Summer vacation in full swing posting pictures of our time in South Dakota slipped my mind. Here are a few more of our time there, and I'll do a separate post of Custer State Park.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial was a great experience. For one price that lasts the year you have access to this memorial. There are hiking trails (although not to the top!) as well as a museum to gain history of the project. The sculptor's studio has also been converted into a place of history with artifacts from building the memorial. After returning from this vacation the children and I watched the National Treasure movies. The second one is shot on location at Mt. Rushmore and it was fun for us to say, "Hey, we've been there!"

I'm so glad we took the time to also visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. Whereas Mount Rushmore is a federally funded, this memorial is a non-profit and the sculpting progress is slower.

The non-profit status allows this memorial to maintain control of its vision, which is not only to sculpt the mountain to be of Crazy Horse and his horse, but also to provide a Native American University and maintain the Indian Museum of North America. The museum is extensive and quite educational. Ella and I took about an hour to read first-hand Indian accounts of the Battle of Little Bighorn with General Custer. It was fascinating! The sculptor's studio is also available to view.

For over $100 per person you can take a van ride to the top of the mountain, but we decided to opt for the $4 per person bus ride to the bottom, which was enough for us! The bus driver provided background on the family and we also saw where the sculptor was buried, in the side of the mountain!

There is so much disappointing history as it relates to the treatment of Native Americans. This memorial provides a nice place to highlight this people group and their contributions to this country.

I'm also glad we took the time to enjoy Jewel Cave National Monument. It was a bit out of our way, being just short of Wyoming by 20 miles. I'd never been on a cave tour before and even though I was a bit nervous about being that far underground for so long I just went with the flow and really enjoyed myself.

The cave was discovered in 1900 and made a national monument in 1908, which is pretty impressive since it seems to take quite some time for places to receive national distinctions. It is the third longest cave in the world, discoveries are ongoing and is still being mapped. The tunnels and formations in the cave were beautiful. It is mostly dry, but at the points where there was a bit of water we could see portions forming. Caving seems a fascinating past time, but it won't become one of ours.

Bear Country USA was recommended by a friend and the kids really enjoyed our time there. Animals aren't my thing, but that's okay! This is a drive-thru animal park where you see adult black bears (probably around 50), elk, arctic wolves, bighorn sheep and reindeer. Then you can park and go in the gift shop (the largest I've ever seen) or walk around and view outdoor exhibits of baby animals. This is a pricey tourist trap, but the children loved it so it was fine to be trapped for a while!