Pipestone National Monument

By Mia Stertzer

Pipestone National Monument

Some national monuments are hidden gems, filled with rich history. One such national monument is Pipestone, which is referred to in the book Walk Two Moons. In chapter 12, readers learn about Sal and her grandparents' visit to Pipestone National Monument. The book doesn't give many details, but research shows that this location is named after a hard, red stone quarried by Native Americans. It is used for making pipes and pipe bowls. Those who tour Pipestone can see demonstrations and find out more about the Native Americans who made them.


It took many years for Pipestone to become a national monument. In November 1929, the Daughters of American Revolution campaigned for the Pipestone Reservation to became a national park or monument. A few years later, in January 1932, representatives of civic, religious, and government agencies produced a legislative proposal for the quarry to become a national park. E.K. Burlew, administrative assistant to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, traveled to Pipestone several months later and toured the reservation. His concern was whether the quarry had enough historical value to be considered as a national park. In October 1933, Winifred Bartlett, president of the Pipestone Indian Shrine Association, met with officials at the Office of Indian Affairs and staff of the National Park Service. She played a major role in encouraging this area to become a national monument. Following her visit, E.A. Hummel, a historian for the National Park Service, explored Pipestone and found the quarry to be valuable historically. He said it contained more Indian artifacts and tradition than any other region in the U.S. In August 1937, Congress passed legislation, and President Franklin Roosevelt signed this legislation into law, thus creating Pipestone National Monument.






If you want to visit Pipestone National Park, it is best to go in the summer, when it's nice and warm. The average summer temperature is 80 degrees. The low is around 60 degrees, and the high can reach 100 degrees. Winter, on the other hand, has an average temperature of 32 degrees and can fall below 0. It is cold, snowy, and windy. Pipestone National Monument has an altitude of 1,600 feet, and its annual precipitation is 20-25 inches. The weather in Pipestone can fluctuate rapidly throughout the month, week, or even day.





Association with Native Americans

Pipestone, Minnesota, was and is a spiritual center for the Sioux Indian tribe. The pipestone quarries located here have been in use for 3,000 years. In many Indian tribes, the use of pipes is a sacred ritual. There are numerous legends and stories about the pipes and the stone used to make them. According to one legend, the blood of buffalo slaughtered by the Great Spirit turned the ground red. The result was sacred pipestone, which is a hue of red. This smooth stone works well for carving peace pipes, called "calumets." Because of its primary use, this claystone commonly became referred to as "pipestone."





Activities and Events

The Circle Trail is enjoyed by many Pipestone visitors. It offers a short and sweet hike, while providing nice views of some of the quarries, prairies, natural pipestone rock formations, Winnewissa Falls, and the leaping rock. The Three Maidens Picnic Area provides a scenic place to relax. Within Pipestone, travelers can see rocks that are sacred to Native Americans, including The Oracle, The Leaping Rock, The Three Maidens, and many more. An outdoor activity popular among some tourists is birdwatching. Today, visitors can take part in cultural demonstrations by Native Americans. Examples include creating pipestone crafts and pipe-making. In Pipestone's early days, Sioux Indians mined quartzsite. This activity is no longer available, as those quarries were closed by the end of the 1930's. In the past pipestone was removed with hard stones, long sticks, or tree branches. Today, steel tools such as wedges and sledgehammers are used--no power tools are allowed. In addition, there are restrictions placed on quarrying pipestone. Now, only American Indians who are enrolled in a tribe recognized by the federal government are granted a quarry permit.



Did You Know...

  • ...pipestone can also be found in Barron County, WI; Tremper Mound, OH; Yavapai County, AZ; Northwestern Kansas; and Jefferson, Lake, and Lincoln Counties in Montana?
  • ...pipestone is 12-17 feet below ground, and between layers of quartzite rock?
  • ...there are more than 500 species of plants, including over 70 grass species, growing on Pipestone National Monument ground?
  • ...Pipestone covers 283 acres?
  • ...there are two endangered species at Pipestone National Monument: the Topeka Shiner and the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid?
  • ...5,000 people visit Alibates Flint Quarries (National Monument) in Texas every year, compared to 60,000 to 100,000 who visit Pipestone National Monument?




Contact Information

You can go to the Pipestone National Monument website, call, or email the Park Rangers to find out more information.