Nature & Science

Tallgrass prairie flowers and grasses
Tallgrass Prairie

NPS Photo

Pipestone National Monument offers an opportunity to explore unique cultural and natural resources. The Monument was established in 1937 to provide American Indians (of federally recognized tribes) access to the pipestone quarries for extracting red pipestone (catlinite), a claystone sandwiched between deep layers of Sioux Quartzite. The establishment of the Monument also preserved a small area of tallgrass prairie, a vanishing ecosystem in North America (learn more about the Monument's natural features & ecosystems).

Outcropping of pink, Sioux Quartzite
Trail along the pink, Sioux quartzite cliffs


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. Quarry pits 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 northern to its southern extreme. 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 at sunrise
Pipestone Creek at sunrise


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.
Spiderweb between prairie grass at sunset
An autumn web on the prairie


Pipestone's remnant tallgrass prairies hosts 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.

To help us document our biodiversity and see what other visitors have photographed while here, check out our page at iNaturalist.

Last updated: March 24, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

36 Reservation Ave
Pipestone, MN 56164


(507) 825-5464 x214

Contact Us