Abstract

The purpose of this study was to characterize the rock mass at Mount Rushmore National Memorial (MORU) and to evaluate the stability of the presidential sculptures. The sculptures are carved in granite, but quartz-mica schist and minor outcrops of pegmatite are also present within the site area. We divided the MORU area into four “regions” to collect discontinuity data. Since the sculptures were not accessible during this study, we used light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data and Split-FX software to determine the orientations of both the discontinuities and the slopes on the sculptures. The rock mass characterization results, using both the Rock Mass Rating system and the Q-system, indicate the granite, schist, and pegmatite classify as fair to good rock. Kinematic analysis results indicate that the potential for planar, wedge, and toppling failures exists for various slopes on each of the sculptures. The factor of safety (FS) values against planar and wedge sliding, ignoring cohesion, range from 0.1 to 0.8 and from 0.2 to 1.3, respectively. Since failures have not been observed at the memorial, we back-calculated the amount of cohesion required to raise the FS values to >1. The back-calculation results show that both cohesion and friction contribute to stability of the sculptures. Using the Slide program, we performed an overall slope probabilistic analysis for the slopes on which the MORU sculptures are located. The analysis determines the mean factor of safety (FSM), reliability index (RI), and probability of failure (PF) for the slopes. For the static condition, the analysis resulted in FSM, RI, and PF values ranging 3.3–4.5, 3.3–7.8, and 0 percent, respectively. With a seismic load coefficient of 0.14 applied to the slopes, the corresponding values were: 2.6–4.1, 2.9–4.7, and 0 percent. For both the static and seismic conditions, the results indicate that, overall, the slopes of the sculptures are stable.

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