Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Iron Mountain Road, Black Hills

The Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota's Black Hills is one of those somewhat hidden treasures that some people unfortunately miss.

Personally designed by Governor/U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck, Iron Mountain Road (U.S.Hwy 16A) runs from the eastern gate of Custer State Park over Iron Mountain itself to just below Mount Rushmore National Monument. It is now part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, which also includes a large part of Custer State Park and the Needles Highway.

For those of us who enjoy taking photos of roads and vehicles along with the scenery, you can't go wrong here.

The 17-mile stretch features beautiful scenery and several overlook views of the Black Hills. Wildlife viewing opportunities on the southern end of the route include buffalo, elk, antelope, deer and "begging" burros that will stick their heads in your car windows for treats. The road also splits into one-lane, one-way sections that twist and turn through groves of aspen trees.

However, Iron Mountain Road is most distinctive for it's corkscrewing "pigtail" bridges and three rocky tunnels. These are located near the north end of the route, closest to Keystone and Mount Rushmore.

I've used a fisheye lens here to emphasize the shape of the unique bridges.

As if that wasn't enough, all three tunnels are also strategically positioned to dramatically frame the distant carvings on Mount Rushmore.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of parking space at any of the tunnels, so be careful when stopping to take photos. Some of them also take a little creativity in angles to get the Rushmore heads lined up in the tunnel for the best photo.

Sometimes, it's not necessary to include Mount Rushmore for an interesting picture.

And for a completely different view of the tunnels, try reversing the view. I took the picture below from the parking lot at Mount Rushmore, looking completely away from the faces, but back at Iron Mountain instead.


Sherry said...

You're killing me with these Custer State Park photos. I haven't been there for at least a dozen years. This is my favorite road in my favorite place. One day, the summer I worked at the East Gate of CSP, (right at the south end of Iron Mtn Rd,)I walked up to a vehicle from New York (we always tried to get a glance of the lic.plate while approaching the car/camper). The driver's face was beat red and I could tell he was fuming before he said a word. Before I could greet him, he barked, "I want the straightest road out of here!" He'd had enough of scenic, curvy roads and pigtail bridges. I was thankful be able to point him to Hwy 79 to Rapid City just around the corner.

Chad Coppess said...

That's a great story Sherry! And I bet there are many more like it. My high school and college summers were spent working at Crazy Horse Memorial and if I thought long enough I could come up with some good stories, too.

Sherry said...

All those summers in the Hills - cool! Tourist stories are the best, we should have written them down.

Anonymous said...

Those are cool roads and the photo of Mt. Rushmore in the tunnel. I've never been that way to go to/from Mt. Rushmore. We always go the way where you go downtown Rapid City and you go past that Chuckwagon dinner theater - that's the road we take.