Who Is the 5th Face on Mount Rushmore?

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A view of mount rushmore, where many are convinced there is a hidden face

You might be familiar with the four presidents’ faces carved into the granite mountain known as Mount Rushmore. However, internet rumors swear there’s a Mount Rushmore hidden face.

So is this a big internet hoax, or have visitors been missing out for nearly 100 years? Let’s take a look!

Where Is Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore sits tucked in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This southwest corner of South Dakota is also home to popular attractions like Custer State Park, Sturgis, and Deadwood.

Just down the road from Mount Rushmore, visitors can also experience Crazy Horse Memorial, which began construction in 1948 and is still decades from completion.

The Black Hills are a unique area with its many canyons, gulches, and rock formations.

If you enjoy outdoor adventures and experiencing some incredible landscapes, a trip to the area is worth putting on your travel bucket list.

A view of mount rushmore, where many are convinced there is a hidden face

About Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is home to sculptured heads of four former presidents. The project began on October 4, 1927, and ended on October 31, 1941.

More than 400 workers used explosives and chisels to delicately carve the faces into the mountain.

The workers removed approximately 410,000 tons of rock from the mountainside.

Sculptor and project manager Gutzon Borglum said, “The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”

However, Mount Rushmore didn’t exactly unite the entire country.

The United States government made the Treaty of 1868, which gave the entire Black Hills territory to the Sioux nation.

However, once gold was discovered on the land in the 1870s, the government forced the Sioux to give back the Black Hills portion of the Sioux reservation.

You can imagine how the tribal community, even to this day, feels about a mountain honoring four prominent leaders of a government that took their sacred lands.

The Sioux Nation of Indians dove into a legal battle against the U.S. government.

The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the land was taken illegally and ordered the government to pay $106 million to the tribe for the land.

However, the tribe, even to this day, has refused the money, and it appears they’d rather own the land. The legal battle remains unresolved to this day.

Despite the less than honorable history of how the government acquired the lands, many tourists flock to see this national memorial and experience all the Black Hills offer.

Annual park attendance has increased yearly and welcomed 2.5 million visitors in 2021.

Keep Reading: Speaking of busy tourist locations, check out Ranked: These Are the Best National Parks in the USA!

Photograph of Mount Rushmore under constructions with people working on carving all four faces
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, photographer Rise Studios.

Who Is the 5th Face on Mount Rushmore?

The story of a fifth face hidden in the carving of Mount Rushmore would make for a great addition to a Nicholas Cage movie. However, there isn’t one.

Nevertheless, there is someone who is known by the National Park Service and many others as the Fifth Face on Mount Rushmore.

For more than 20 years, guests to the park could meet Ben Black Elk. He’s the man also known as the fifth face of Mount Rushmore.

Ben Black Elk began standing with tourists to Mount Rushmore in the 1950s. He would often pose for 5,000 pictures in a single day.

He was a celebrity in Hollywood western movies and would often give lectures all over the country. His goal was to promote Lakota traditions and to bring about awareness of teaching indigenous history.

The Fifth Face of Mount Rushmore died in 1974, but his legacy, passion, and story live on to this day.

His life reminds many people of the massive divide that often goes unrecognized between the U.S. and the Lakota Sioux people.

Keep in Mind: Looking for unique stops on your road trip? Try the Roadside America App! Roadside America will help you find unique and exciting attractions.

How Many Lives Were Lost Making Mount Rushmore?

Despite the dangers of using dynamite and other explosives, no one died during Mount Rushmore’s making.

This number is very surprising to many, especially since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) didn’t come about until 1971.

While no one died during the construction of Mount Rushmore, some workers died years after the memorial’s construction from silicosis.

This was largely due to inhaling dust and debris as they carved into the granite.

Can You Go Inside Mount Rushmore?

Located just behind the sculpted head of Abraham Lincoln is a somewhat hidden and secretive room.

Sadly, this secret room is not open to the public, even if your name is Benjamin Gates. The room is a chamber that holds important information about the monument and the history of America from 1775 to 1906. 

However, Congress axed the idea in 1939 as they didn’t see it as worth the money.

A 70-foot tunnel remains, although the room never was completed.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Mount Rushmore?

There is no entrance fee to visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial. However, guests who park at the memorial must pay a parking fee.

It’s $10 for private vehicles ($5 for those ages 62 and over), and active duty military individuals are free.

The pass for parking is valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Additionally, no annual passes apply to this fee, including the America the Beautiful National Park Pass

An entry sign for mount rushmore national memorial, where many believe there is a 5th hidden face

Can You See Mount Rushmore Without Paying?

If you don’t want to spend the money to park at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, simply take a trip down Iron Mountain Road or South Dakota Highway 244.

There are several opportunities to catch glimpses of the memorial. You can simply pull off along the route and take as many pictures as you like.

Ensure you get entirely off the road and are mindful of passing traffic.

Pro Tip: Plan a trip to Mount Rushmore with your RV! Here’s how to plan an awesome RV Trip to South Dakota.

How Long Will Mount Rushmore Last?

Granite is the type of rock that makes up Mount Rushmore. This type of rock is very slow eroding, typically eroding at a rate of one inch every 10,000 years.

Each of the noses is approximately 240 inches, indicating that Mount Rushmore should be safe for 2.4 million years before disappearing.

It’s safe to say the faces aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Pro Tip: When you’re done exploring all that South Dakota has to offer, head up to North Dakota and explore the awesome state and national parks there!

Old colored photograph of Ben Black Elk and a park visitor at Mount Rushmore
Source: Facebook.com/Nancy Stuart Centers

Visit the Mount Rushmore State

Visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a great opportunity to experience a bit of American history and the beauty of the Black Hills.

The entire area is gorgeous, and visitors love the landscapes. There’s so much to see and do in the area that you’ll want to come back again and again.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to visit Mount Rushmore (not the hidden face) and the entire state of South Dakota. You won’t regret it!

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