Pipestone National Monument, MN

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Map of Pipestone NM

Map of Pipestone NM

In the map above the monument is in yellow and the Sioux Quartzite bluffs are in green.

Map of Pipestone NM

Pipestone NM Definitely one of the more inconspicuous national monuments.
Pipestone NM The visitor center. The monument preserves outcrops of the Sioux Quartzite along with interbedded clay units that were quarried and carved for ceremonial purposes by the Indians. Indians are still permitted to quarry.
Pipestone NM The quarries are located in the floor of a broad glacial meltwater channel. The bank of the channel is visible in the distance. Quartzite ledges line parts of the channel bank.
Pipestone NM Sioux Quartzite outcrop
Pipestone NM A short trail loop runs from the visitor center to the ledges and back.

Quarries in the Sioux Quartzite

Pipestone NM An old flooded quarry pit
Pipestone NM Rubble from the pit
Pipestone NM An active pit
Pipestone NM
Pipestone NM
Pipestone NM An exposure of the pipestone, a clay-rich horizon in the quartzite. The pipestone is at the bottom of the outcrop marked by the lower green tablet.
Pipestone NM Close-up of the pipestone. The quartzite dips a few degrees to the east, so as excavation continues, the pipestone gets deeper. Since all the quarrying was (and is, here) done by hand, the dip of the layers sets a strict limit on quarrying.

Sioux Quartzite

Pipestone NM The Sioux is the most extensive of a number of middle Precambrian quartzites of the upper Midwest. Other related units include the Baraboo, Waterloo and Barron quartzites of Wisconsin. All are very pure, generally pink to purple quartzites with abundant cross-bedding.
Pipestone NM The quartzites are something of a mystery. How did such great thicknesses of pure quartz sand accumulate? How did the rocks get metamorphosed far from any active crustal disturbances? 
Pipestone NM Weathered boulder with cross-bedding 
Pipestone NM Cross-bedding 
Pipestone NM Cross-bedding 
Pipestone NM A boulder showing wind abrasion, pitting and polish.

The Trail Loop

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Pipestone NM Looking southwest from the Visitor Center
Pipestone NM Looking northeast to the Sioux Quartzite bluffs
Pipestone NM Large erratics near the monument entrance

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Created 18 April 2003, Last Update 06 June 2020