A mythic warrior, a famed artist, his family and a canvas composed of granite are the elements that comprise the legendary past, present and future of the Crazy Horse Memorial.
Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began the world’s largest mountain carving in 1948. Members of his family and their supporters are continuing his artistic intent to create a massive statue that will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. To give that some perspective, the heads at Mount Rushmore National Memorial are each 60 feet high. Workers completed the carved 87½-foot-tall Crazy Horse face in 1998, and have since focused on thinning the remaining mountain to form the 219-foot-high horse’s head.
Crazy Horse Memorial hosts between 1 and 1½ million visitors a year. The number of foreign travelers, particularly group tours from Asia, is increasing.
The Indian Museum of North America, and the adjoining Welcome Center and Native American Educational and Cultural Center, feature more than 12,000 contemporary and historic items, from pre-Colombian to contemporary times. The new Mountain Museum wing helps explain the work behind the scenes, augmenting the introductory “Dynamite & Dreams” movie at the Welcome Center.
Crazy Horse Memorial is open every day, from 7 a.m. to dark during the summer season. From mid-May to mid-October, the storytelling continues each night at dark with the “Legends in Light” laser-light show projected on the mountain carving.
Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, you can get to Crazy Horse Memorial from US Highway 16/385 (the Crazy Horse Memorial Highway). Crazy Horse is 9 miles south of Hill City, SD and 4 miles north of Custer, SD.
It was on June 3, 1948, that Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, equipped only with a sledge hammer, a single-jack drill and a box of dynamite, blasted the first cuts into Thunderhead Mountain as he began his lifework of depicting the great Sioux leader Crazy Horse in stone. He had answered the call of Chief Standing Bear to “let the white man know the red man has great heroes, too,” and would spend the next 34 years of his life on a tireless quest to carve the massive portrait of the legendary chief on his war pony.
Today, the 563-by-641-foot sculpture-in-the-round is known as Crazy Horse Memorial. The dimensions are staggering – the immense work is as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper.
Just as impressive is the sculptor’s family itself who are dedicated to fulfilling Korczak’s vision. Using three plan books and scale models that Korczak left them upon his death in 1982, the family has made amazing progress over the past three decades.
The family’s ferocious work ethic was rewarded with the completion of the head of Crazy Horse in 1998. The 88-foot-high face was dedicated on June 3 of that year, 50 years to the day after Korczak’s first blast. Just as telling is the visible progress on the sculpture’s other massive features over the intervening years.
Sustained by their mother’s driving spirit, up to Ruth Ziolkowski's death in 2014, the Ziolkowski's are creating much more than an artistic masterpiece. Today, the grounds include the nationally acclaimed Indian Museum of North America, along with a visitor center, dining facilities, educational center and an annual program of events and activities.
On the mountain, work now focuses on the 219-foot-high horse’s head. There’s a lot of excitement about witnessing Crazy Horse’s steed take shape as cliff-hanging explosive experts work their fleet of drilling equipment. Adding the Memorial’s unique interplay of art, education, history and family values is a guarantee that Crazy Horse Memorial will endure through the ages.