Frequently Asked Questions

What is Pipestone National Monument?

American Indians have come to this site for over 3,000 years in order to quarry a soft stone that they use to make pipes (hence the name 'pipestone'). The pipe is sacred to many American Indians who use it for prayer, important rites, and to conduct both civil and religious ceremonies. The site is still actively quarried today by American Indians enrolled in federally recognized tribes.

Where is the Monument?

The 301-acre Monument consists of the quarry pits, of which 56 are active pipestone extraction sources, and the tall grass prairie landscape surrounding them. There is no specific structure, plaque, marker, or monument. A National Monument is one of many designations 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?

While Pipestone National Monument protects a traditional quarry site containing fine-quality pipestone, and is the best-known pipestone deposit in the country, pipestone, or similar materials, can be found in other areas including:

  1. Barron County, Wisconsin
  2. Tremper Mound, Ohio
  3. Yavapai County, Arizona
  4. Minnehaha County, Garretson, South Dakota
  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 or artifact) from the grounds. Registered quarriers, may exercise their right to obtain stone by means of a free permit.

Who can quarry pipestone?

Pipestone quarrying 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 federally recognized tribe may apply for an annual quarry pit 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, Monument staff will contact the applicant. Currently, there is a 10-year waiting list for quarry permits.

There is no waiting list for the Daily/Weekly or Monthly 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, mauls, picks, and hammerstones, as well as long sticks or tree branches used as levers. Now steel tools such as heavy pry bars, wedges, and sledge hammers are used. All modern-day quarrying must be done using hand tools. No power tools are allowed. See Quarrying Process.

What is Pipestone made of?

Geologically, pipestone is a claystone (silicate of alumina) argillite or catlinite (named after George Catlin). The red color results from oxidation of trace amounts of iron (hematite). The formation of the soft red stone called pipestone began over 1.5 billion years ago when a braided river covered what is now southwest Minnesota. Clay was deposited on top of sand, either through a flood or settling clay sediment, and then quickly buried under more quartz sand. Heat and pressure changed the sand into quartzite and the clay into pipestone, which is why the softer pipestone is sandwiched between the harder rock layers of the Sioux Quartzite formation. More on Geology.

How many acres are there at Pipestone National Monument?

Pipestone National Monument contains 301 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, buffalo grass, side oats gramma, prairie cord grass, Indian grass and switch grass. Exotic species such as Kentucky blue grass and smooth brome are also found here. Learn more about Plants.

What is the Sun Dance?

The Sun Dance is a tribal gathering and an expression of thanksgiving to the Great Spirit and to all powers. The Sun Dance 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. For this reason, fire has been reintroduced to stimulate this condition by the use of controlled or prescribed burns. With the use of prescribed fire, weed growth is inhibited and the prairie is able to regenerate closer to its historic state.

Where is the Passport stamp?

The passport stamp is located in the Park Store in the Visitor Center.

Is there a Junior Ranger Program?

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

Last updated: November 13, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

36 Reservation Ave
Pipestone, MN 56164


(507) 825-5464 x214

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