Pipestone National Monument, Pipestone, Minnesota

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Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone, Minnesota
Pipestone County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1937
Founded by: United States National Park Service
Historic Function: Historic site

Pipestone Pipestone County

Located in rural southwest Minnesota, Pipestone National Monument offers an opportunity to explore unique cultural and natural resources. The Monument was established in 1937 to provide American Indians of all tribes access to the pipestone quarries for extraction of the red pipestone (catlinite). The establishment of the Monument also preserved a small area of tallgrass prairie, a vanishing ecosystem in North America.

The Pipestone Quarries are a sacred site for American Indians. For centuries, tribes across North America traveled to this site to quarry red pipestone for the making of pipes and effigies from this easily carvable material. Today, American Indians still travel long distances to obtain this sacred stone and continue the tradition of pipemaking. Red pipestone is a valuable spiritual resource to American Indians.

Pipestone National Monument is located in the region commonly known as the Coteau des Prairies (the Highland of the Prairies). The dominant plant communities at the Monument include; virgin native prairie, restored prairie, degraded prairie, and oak savanna. The 282 acre Monument is bisected by several features: the Red Pipestone Quarries, a Sioux quartzite cliff line, and Pipestone Creek. Quarries excavated by American Indians dot the middle of the monument in a north-south line running most of the length of the Monument. In the eastern half of the Monument, a Sioux quartzite outcrop forms a 10-15 foot tall cliff line. This cliff line stretches across the Monument from its most northern to its most southern parts. The Sioux quartzite outcrop supports the Sioux quartzite prairie, which has been identified by the Nature Conservancy as a globally significant and endangered plant community type. Pipestone Creek flows west through the park until it reaches the middle of the Monument where it drops over the edge of the Sioux quartzite cliff line at Winnewissa Falls. West of the waterfall, the creek forms Lake Hiawatha which is home to Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, and many small fish. The creek continues to meander through the park and finally exits at the north boundary.

Pipestone's remnant tallgrass prairies host many plants and animals that once flourished throughout the midwest. Over five hundred plant species, twenty-five fish species, forty-five macroinvertebrate species, eight reptiles and amphibians, twenty five mammal species, fifty-five families of insects (over nine hundred specimens have been collected), and approximately one hundred bird species are currently found at the Monument. It is also home to a federally threatened plant and an endangered fish. Many state-listed rare plant and animal species also call Pipestone National Monument home.

The blending of cultural and natural resources at Pipestone National Monument makes this a remarkable place to visit.


Memories and stories

The appearance of the Pipestone quarries in many works of art and literature led to the area's appeal in the late 19th century, and contributed to the eventual settlement of the city of Pipestone. George Catlin, early American explorer and artist, (and man for whom the catlinite was eventually named) recorded his experiences at the quarries as early as 1836, (his journals were later published in London) and subsequently painted a scene of the tribal holy grounds. These early journal writings inspired other writers, most notably Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in his "Song of Hiawatha".


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the ARCH5670 Class Project

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Related Links



[1]Pipestone site list


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