South Dakota's most iconic monument closed its entrance to tourists this morning following a government shutdown that has crippled public services across the nation.

In addition to Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Monument and Jewel Cave have also been shuttered, certain hunting areas in South Dakota are closed, 427 civilian employees have been furloughed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and 549 full-time employees of the South Dakota National Guard have been laid off.

In total, 800,000 federal employees across the country will be furloughed and more than a million expected to work without pay. The shutdown was forced by the Republican-controlled House after the Senate, controlled by Democrats, wouldn't make changes to President Obama's 2010 health care law.

Maureen McGee-Ballinger, spokeswoman for Mount Rushmore, said Monday that the National Park Service expected 36 of the monument's 60 employees would be furloughed from Tuesday.

"We will still need security for the sculpture so those employees would still be here," McGee-Ballinger said, adding that maintenance crews would also continue upkeep.

Although summer is the peak season for the park, she said it can still attract 5,000 to 7,000 people on a nice Fall day.

For tourists like Deb Anderson, 61, an escrow closing assistant in Bismarck, N.D., Mount Rushmore's closure was a surprising and disappointing sight on Tuesday after a six hour drive.

"I'm very very mad at our government," she said. "There's other things that they can do and they have to quit 'Republicans against Democrats'".

A trail of about 200 cars crawled along the road outside the sculpture in the morning. National Park Service employees blocked off pull-off areas, leaving visitors to vie for scarce space to stop and gaze at the granite monument.

It's unclear when Mount Rushmore and the rest of the government will begin to operate normally again.

The shutdown came after House Republicans demanded on Monday that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, defund or delay parts of President Obama's 2010 health care overhaul in exchange for passage of a bill that would continue government spending. Obama and congressional Democrats have remained steadfast in their refusal to give in to Republican demands.

In an attempt to keep Mount Rushmore open, Governor Dennis Daugaard said Monday that he had sent a letter to the National Park Service with a plan to keep the monument open in the event of a shutdown.

The governor suggested that private donations would pay for the lighting of the memorial and state personnel would provide security. The visitor center wouldn't be open, but the concessions and gift shop would be.

McGee-Dallinger said Monday that she hasn't seen the letter, but that the agency couldn't hand control of the park to the state.

"It's not open for state or private entities to operate since it is a federal entity," she said. "If there is a federal lapse in funding, we would be closed."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(11) comments

Obtuseangler

I just learned that yesterday Democrats voted down a bill that would have continued funding of national parks through the so called shutdown. The administration will try to make this as uncomfortable as possible in order to bring pressure on his political enemies.

Outside US

I current live and work outside of the US in a country were US politicians are always pointing to the corruption and INABILITY of the current government to work together to make the average persons life better here and complain that the politicians in this country I am living in now are just taking care of their own needs. All I can say to our Leaders is JOB WELL DONE IN LEADING BY EXAMPLE and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Our leaders in the great USA need to remember "True leaders lead from the front".

Spiker

The mandate at the inception of the memorial was that there never be a monetary charge to enter the monument-- guaranteed to our parents who gave their lunch money to the building during the depression. Thus the private organization to build and run the parking facility free of NPS jnfluence. So how can the NPS now obstruct citizens from access to the parking facility, whether they are shut down or not? I understand access to the inside of the facility buildings, but if they have their security structure in place and all 90% of us want to do is walk to the deck- what is the big deal?

morningstar

How well did the Republicans do the last time there was a US Government shutdown?

crc

Great question. The last shutdown was during Christmas season 1995-96. Republicans lost the popularity contest, but by next election actually picked up two senate seats and lost only three house seats leaving them in control. Clinton's popularity increased as well, easily winning reelection, and leading to a pretty good time of balanced budgets by a Republican house and a practical Democratic president. This was fueled in part by the Dot Com economy, but, hey, sometimes you get lucky.

Just like Clinton, president Obama was returned to office while Republicans were left in control of the house. Election mathematics is non-linear, but someone somewhere had to split their party vote for this to happen. It seems the majority likes conflict and stalemate and that's just what we have now.

Back in 1995, President Clinton didn't do the cartoony stunts of barrycading open air monuments. This one is and time will tell if the voters are savvy enough to see through the obvious tantrum.

DanC

Yes, this is completely Thune and Noem's fault... how about them and all of the other air heads in Washington. How about we all just use our head and make smart decisions instead of decisions that line our pockets.

Jonnnnn

We have come to expect Thune and Noem to vote "all Washington and against the interests of South Dakota." What is the larger story is why the media lemmings from the borders of Iowa to Wyoming, from North Dakota to Nebraska, were not clamoring on behalf of South Dakota's interests when the republican's first began this procedural insurrection against the law of the land, a law settled by the Supreme Court. Perhaps too the corporate media with minor offices in South Dakota also represents the same outside interests as apparently do Thune and Noem.

Jonnnnn

Thune and Noem - working for South Dakota -- NOT! A day after the governor writes that South Dakota "takes care of its veterans" over 975 vets and civilian employees are laid off. May the republicans reap what they sowed.

ILOVE RREAGAN
ILOVE RREAGAN

I was going to say stop paying Thune and Noem, but then I remembered. It's the special interest that pays them the big bucks. The only way to truly effect them is with voting them out. Then Thune can go back to being a million dollar lobbyist and Noem can go back to...what did she use to do? Oh yeah, she can be a Fox correspondent.

Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart

I was expecting an AP headline that says "sun didn't rise this morning!".

Buldog
Buldog

you would

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