Pipestone National Monument is located on the western
slope of the Coteau des Prairie (the divide between the Mississippi and
Missouri drainage on the north-central plains), astride the valley of
Pipestone Creek, a tributary of the Big Sioux River.
The general topography of the surrounding lands is
gently rolling, interrupted here and there by outcrops of Sioux
quartzite bedrock. It is between layers of one of these outcrops that
Indians discovered the exposure of soft, red catlinite.
Pencil sketch showing geologic cross
section of quarry; pipestone is stratum B. (Courtesy, National
The climate of this region is Humid Continental
(short summer phase), most distinctly characterized by its short, hot
summer and long, cold winter. Precipitation ranges from 14 to 35 inches
a year, with an average of 24.5 inches, 78 percent of which usually
occurs in the months of April through September.
Before the advent of white settlers, the region was
covered with tall prairie grasses and associated plants. Several areas
within the Monument still have such vegetation. Early visitors took note
of the long distance to usable wood supplies.