Keeping Up With The Times

Visitors walking from the parking lot to the Visitor Center along the Avenue of Flags as it looked in 1976.  A red fence and ponderosa pine trees line the path and state flags hang vertically about ten feet above the walkway.
Walkway from the parking lot to the Visitor Center as it looked after the state flags were added for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976.


Many visitors who have been here before are surprised when they arrive today. From the original roadside pullout to the current modern buildings, the facilities at Mount Rushmore National Memorial have changed over time. These changes have been made to better meet the needs of our visitors.

As visitation increased it became necessary to expand and improve our facilities. The existing facilities were constructed during the 1950's and 1960's, when visitation was less than half what it is today. Paths, walkways, trails, restrooms, parking spaces, and interpretive exhibits could no longer meet the needs of our visitors.

In the mid-1990's work began on new facilities that could accommodate the two million people that now visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial each year.

View from Mount Rushmore of the original Visitor Center in the upper left of the image and the Buffalo Dining Room and Gift Shop in the foreground in the lower right.  Both buildings faced towards the photographer.
Photograph of the original Visitor Center with the Buffalo Dining Room and Gift Shop in the foreground.  Both buildings were replaced in the late 1990's.


During the major reconstruction which began in 1994, the Visitor Center and the Buffalo Dining Room and Gift Shop were replaced. The current Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center sits on the site of the old dining room and gift shop (lower right corner of photo).

The current Carver's Café is located on the site of the old Visitor Center (middle left of photo). The new buildings provided much needed space and updated facilities for the growing number of visitors at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

View of the parking lot curing the 1960's nearly filled to capacity.  Highway 244 is at the bottom of the image, with five tiers of levels of the parking lot moving from lower right to upper left.
Photo of the old parking lot nearly filled to capacity.


Parking At The Memorial

Over the years vehicle parking at the memorial became a concern as well. The previous parking facility held around 500 vehicles. During the summer of 1989 alone, visitation was high enough to exceed available parking on 36 days.

Traffic congestion was common with lines of cars stretching down the hill towards Keystone, with visitors eagerly waiting to get in. It became necessary to provide additional parking as visitation increased.

View of the original amphitheater built in 1959 from the rear of the seating area.  A small screen is surrounded by brown wood creating a stage.  The stage is green.  Numerous gray colored benches form an arc around the stage.
Photo of the original amphitheater built in 1959.


Throughout the summer months a lighting ceremony is held in the park's amphitheater each evening. The original amphitheater, built to hold 850 people, was simply too small for the continually growing audience. Currently, an average of 2,500 visitors attend this summer program nightly.

View of the walkway leading towards Mount Rushmore as it looks today.  The surface is made of different sized paving stones that are different shades of gray.  Mount Rushmore is in the background in the upper part of the image.
The walkway leading towards Mount Rushmore as it looks today.


As Mount Rushmore National Memorial and its visitors move into the future the facilities here will continue to change, as the needs of our visitors change. What will not change, however, is the sculpture that these facilities sit beneath.

The mission of the National Park Service is to constantly balance the protection of our resources while providing a way for visitors to find their own meaning in these special places.

Last updated: January 30, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

13000 Highway 244
Building 31, Suite 1

Keystone, SD 57751


605 574-2523
Park information. Phones are answered from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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