Wander Minnesota: Pipestone National Monument
Minnesota has two equally beautiful, but distinctly different National Monuments, located at complete opposite ends of the state.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Grand Portage National Monument, located in the far northeast corner of the state.
This week, let’s take a look at southwest Minnesota and the Pipestone National Monument.
Pipestone National Monument is a sacred place to American Indians who have quarried red pipestone here for thousands of years. It’s thought that numerous tribes have visited and quarried here, and that even enemies would set aside their differences in respect to the sacredness of the place.
American Indians continue to quarry here, with limited numbers allowed at any time by permit. The task of extracting the pipestone from layers of quartzite is onerous, but it’s prized for the pipes made from it, among other items, in beautiful reds and pinks. Yes, there are the “peace pipes” of lore, but pipes served other functions and were an integral part of many ceremonies, and a person’s pipe was often buried with them when they died.
Besides the history and culture of Pipestone National Monument, it’s also well worth a visit because of its beautiful landscapes, complete with prairies (both virgin and restored), a waterfall and massive stone outcroppings.
If you visit, be sure to take time to walk the Circle Trail, a three-quarter mile loop that takes you through every kind of geographical feature within the Monument.
Although short and mostly flat, it’s such a beautiful walk that you’ll want to allow plenty of extra time to soak in the scenery.
Pipestone National Monument is open year-round, but obviously it could be a little more difficult to get around in the winter. Allow time to stop by the Visitor Center, which has an informative video about the history and meaning of the Monument, and check out the gift shop, which has a great array of pipestone products.
What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.