• Artist George Catlin recorded the quarrying activity at the pipestone quarries in 1836

    Pipestone

    National Monument Minnesota

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Monument?
The Monument consists of the pipestone quarries and the 283 acres surrounding them. There is no specific structure, plaque, marker, or monument. A National Monument is only one designation for a unit of the National Park Service.

When are you open?
Pipestone National Monument is open year-round. See Operating Hours for more detailed information.

Where is Pipestone National Monument and how do I get there?
Pipestone National Monument is located in southwestern Minnesota. See Directions.

Is this the only place pipestone can be found?
Not exactly. Pipestone National Monument protects a traditional quarry site that contains high-quality pipestone. The site is probably the best quality and the best-known pipestone deposit in the world. Pipestone or a stone similar to the pipestone found here is found in other areas including:
1. Barron County, WI
2. Tremper Mound, OH
3. Yavapai County, AZ
4. Minnehaha County, Garretson, SD
5. Northwestern Kansas
6. Jefferson, Lake, and Lincoln Counties in Montana

How can I get some pipestone?
A wide variety of pipestone crafts are available in the Gift Shop, but unworked stone is not available onsite. It is illegal to take pipestone (or any other resource) from the grounds, except by registered quarriers, who must do so by permit.

Who can quarry pipestone?
The quarrying of pipestone is reserved for American Indians who are enrolled in tribes recognized by the Federal government.

How does a person get a quarry and who determines this?
American Indians who are enrolled in a tribe recognized by the U.S. government may apply for a quarry site by filling out a short application. As quarries become available, applications from the waiting list are processed and the applicant's enrollment in a federally-recognized tribe is verified. Applicants must provide proof of tribal enrollment with documentation from a tribal official. Following verification of enrollment, the Pipestone National Monument Superintendent issues the quarry permit. Currently, there is a 5-6 year waiting list for quarry permits. More detailed information is available on Quarry Permits.

What types of tools were and are used for removing the pipestone?
Early tools included harder stones and long sticks or tree branches. Eventually steel tools such as heavy pry bars, wedges and sledge hammers were used. All quarrying must be done by use of hand tools. No power tools are allowed. See Quarrying Process.

What is Pipestone made of?
Geologically, pipestone is metamorphic clay (silicate of alumina). The red color results from oxidation of trace amounts of iron. The formation of the soft red stone called pipestone or "catlinite" began about 1.2 billion years ago when oceans covered Minnesota. Layers of clay and sand collected on the ocean floor and became buried by other sedimentary materials. Time, pressure and chemical changed turned the sand to quartzite and the clay to pipestone. More on Geology.

How many acres are there at Pipestone National Monument?
Pipestone National Monument contains 283 acres. Much of the area surrounding the quarries is tallgrass prairie.

What kinds of grasses are here?
There are over 400 native plant species growing at the Monument, including over 70 species of grass such as big bluestem, little bluestem, buffalograss, sideoats gramma, prairie cordgrass, indiangrass and switchgrass. Exotic species such as Kentucky bluegrass and smooth brome are also found here. Learn more about Plants.

What is the Sundance?
The Sundance is a tribal gathering and an expression of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit and to all the powers. The Sundance ceremony lasts four days and is usually held in late July or August.

Is there a controlled burn here?
Yes, weather permitting the prescribed burn program is usually conducted in May. Fire has played a historic role in the perpetuation of the grasslands. Some fires were set by American Indians or were the result of lightening. Many prairie plants have evolved in the presence of fire. With only small fragments of the prairie remaining today, natural fire cannot be relied upon to maintain the historic fire regime. Therefore, fire has been reintroduced to stimulate this condition by the use of controlled or prescribed burns. With the use of prescribed fire, the prairie is able to regenerate and maintain itself in its historic state.

Where is the Passport stamp?
The passport stamp is located in the Gift Shop in the Visitor Center.

Is there a Junior Ranger Program?
Yes! Kids can complete an activity booklet and earn an Junior Ranger badge and certificate. Learn more about the Junior Ranger Program.

Did You Know?

Spiderwort

There are over 500 plant species, including over 70 species of grasses, growing on Pipestone National Monument lands. More...