Preserving the faces of Mount Rushmore - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Preserving the faces of Mount Rushmore

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It's a monument representing our nation and, of course, our state. Mount Rushmore, sitting proud in the Black Hills since it was 'unofficially' completed in the 1940s. As time goes on, chances are, it won't stay the same way forever.

Nestled away in the peaceful Black Hills, these four faces have been a staple, a symbol of our nation, playing host to nearly 3 million visitors every year.

"I was awestruck at the magnitude and the presidents they chose," The Ackerman Family said.

But Blaine Kortemeyer, with the National Park Service, would be one of the first to admit - those four faces - it's not easy preserving them.

"The granite is exposed, it's weathered thus far for millions of years, no way you can preserve a piece of granite that's so exposed. All you can do is help to get it into the future as a solid piece and work of art," Kortemeyer said.

And that work of art can wear away, as nature sets in. 

Though not much, only about an inch every 10,000 years, it's enough to require monitoring of what they call 'rock blocks'.  

"We monitor those rock blocks for movement and they move. Expanding and contracting with the heating and cooling of the day and year. Some of them have the potential to slip over a great amount of time. We're talking multiple lifetimes. Eons of time," Kortemeyer said.

So far, not much change in the width of the cracks, even after they expand and contract. Using a silicone-based caulk and high pressure washers, they remove any water or seal any cracks needing work.

"What we're trying to do is keep the water out of the cracks, out of the flaws, so they don't become larger," he said.

That's the work of Rushmore's Sculpture Preservation Team that head up the mountain once a year. Kortemeyer recalls his first trip up.

"I was really scared. Every time I go to the sculpture. If I go tomorrow, I would be just as scared as I was the first time."

All fears aside, once a year, the team has a job to do because preserving the faces, the main resource, just as they always were is what keeps people coming back.

"It's very important. it's history and it would be a shame to have it not here for my grandkids," the Ackerman family said.

"It's the mission of the National Park Service to preserve and protect for future generations those lands and places given to us to preserve and protect by the human race and American public. It's our job," Kortemeyer said.

The preservation team's work once a year is extremely dependent on the weather. Most times, crews will only have a day's notice before the day, or week-long, annual work begins.

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