Pipestone National Monument Earthcache
In Minnesota, United States
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Pipestone National Monument is a unique blend of geology, culture, nature and history. While this site can be seen from these many various viewpoints; its real beauty comes when it is seen all as one. This place truly is "sacred" ground.
"Located in rural southwest Minnesota, Pipestone National Monument offers an opportunity to explore unique cultural and natural resources. The Monument was established in 1937 to provide American Indians of all tribes access to the pipestone quarries for extraction of the red pipestone. The establishment of the Monument also preserved a small area of tallgrass prairie, a vanishing ecosystem in North America. The Pipestone Quarries are a sacred site for American Indians. For centuries, tribes across North
America traveled to this site to quarry red pipestone for the making of pipes and effigies from this easily carvable material. Today, American Indians still travel long distances to obtain this sacred stone and continue the tradition of pipemaking. Red pipestone is a valuable spiritual resource to American Indians.
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 282 acre Monument is bisected by several features: the Red Pipestone Quarries, a Sioux quartzite cliff line, and Pipestone Creek. Quarries 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 most northern to its most southern parts. 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 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. Pipestone's remnant tallgrass prairies host many plants and animals that once flourished throughout the midwest. Over five hundred plant species, twenty-five fish species, forty-five macroinvertebrate species, eight reptiles and amphibians, twenty five mammal species, fifty-five 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 plant 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."
"The solid bedrock of the Pipestone National Monument is the Sioux Quartzite, a thick stack of ancient layered rocks exposed today in parts of Southwest Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota, and northwest Iowa. The Sioux Quartzite consists of three rock types that were originally layers of mud (pipestone), sand (quartzite), and gravel (conglomerate) which, according to scientists, were deposited at some time between 1,750 and 1,630 million years ago. The unique variety of pipestone at Pipestone National Monument is called catlinite. It consists largely of microscopic crystals of pyrophyllite (pie-raw-fill-ite), diaspore (die-ah-spore), muscovite (musk-oh-vite), and kaolinite (kay-oh-lihn-ite). Traces of the iron bearing mineral hematite (heem-ah-tite) give the catlinite its red color. Most other red pipestones found in the world contain the mineral quartz; catlinite has little or none. Catlinite formed when mud layers were buried within the earth, under temperature and pressure conditions very different from those at the surface. The original minerals were
unstable in this new environment, and their chemical components recombined to form new minerals. The catlininte beds are sandwiched between thicker beds of quartzite. Most of the sand grains of which the quartzite is made are rounded crystals of quartz "glued" together by other quartz crystals that grew between the sand grains after the layers were buried. After millions of years of heat and pressure pressing the grains together, the rock is presently a mineral harder than ordinary steel. Although Sioux Quartzite is extremely hard, the underlying layers of catlinite are very soft. Since the catlinite contains no quartz, subjection to the same natural heat and pressure metamorphosed it into a very dense material which is roughly the same hardness as a human fingernail. It can therefore be easily carved using only the simplest of tools.
At least five different catlinite layers are now exposed in the quarries at the Monument. These extend in a roughly north-south line which is two-thirds of a mile long, following a zone with the Sioux Quartzite containing many pipestone beds."
-Description taken for the Pipestone National Monument website.
The Pipestone National Monument consist of the quarry site itself and the Visitors Center containing the Upper Midwest Indian Cultural Center. Hours for the Visitor Center vary from Summer to Winter. Please check their website or call for more information (visit link) ). At the Upper Midwest Indian Cultural Center you can speak with Native American artisian and watch them as work the stone. Beautiful examples of their work are available for sale here also. While the Visitor Center is only open certain hours of the day, access to the site is not limited. A self-directed tour/brouchure is available and is a great way to learn more about this special place.
Thanks to the National Park Service for their understanding and assitance in listing this Earthcache.
Please email me the answers to these questions:
Pipestone is a relatively soft material and easily carved. What is the rating of Catlinite on the Mohs Scale?
What else did you learn today about the geology of the area?
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Last Updated: on 5/17/2015 7:56:16 PM Pacific Daylight Time (2:56 AM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum