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

    Pipestone

    National Monument Minnesota

Nature & Science

Tallgrass prairie flowers and grasses

Tallgrass Prairie

NPS Photo

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 federally recognized 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.

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 301 acre Monument is bisected by several features: the 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-six fish species, forty-five macroinvertebrate species, nine reptiles and amphibians, twenty five mammal species, fifty-six 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 flower 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.

View nature photos of Pipestone National Monument.

Did You Know?

Tallgrass prairie landscape with Big Bluestem Grass

Pipestone National Monument is one of the few remaining areas of native tallgrass prairie. Over 400,000 square miles of tall grass prairie once covered the Midwest. Less than 1% of the original tall grass prairie remains today. More...