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Quartzite Spires

A cache by danielle41101 Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 1/23/2010
In South Dakota, United States
2 out of 5
5 out of 5

Size: Size: not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

In order to count this Earthcache as a find, you must complete the following tasks and email the answers to me.

1. What is the elevation at ground zero?

2. Describe the rock at ground zero in terms of color, formation, and hardness.

3. As you look across Split Rock Creek, what evidence can you see of the effect water has had on the quartzite?

This Earthcache is located in Palisades State Park near Garretson, South Dakota. Palisades State Park is located on the southern edge of the Coteau des Prairies and sits atop the Sioux Ridge. Split Rock Creek also runs through the park, cutting deep gorges into the quartzite. A day pass or annual pass will be required to enter the park. This park is popular among campers, sightseers, picnickers, rock climbers, and hikers. To get to ground zero, you will need to make your way to the top of the Queen. Please note, no climbing equipment is required. Enjoy the scenic view from the top! Note: If you do not feel safe making the climb, I will accept answers gathered at the base of the Queen.

Through Palisades State Park runs the Sioux Ridge. This is a flattened outcrop (rock formation) ridge of finely textured Sioux quartzite that rises a couple hundred feet above the surrounding plain. Sioux quartzite is a finely texture pink stone. It is also a Precambrian formation. The Precambrian is a geological time period that begins with the formation of the earth and ends with the appearance of hard shell animals. This pink stone was one of the first sedimentary (water-deposited) rocks to be laid down over the ancient, twisted schists (metamorphic rocks, which are the result of the transformation of an existing rock type) and granites that were created during Earth’s formation. This Sioux quartzite--these pink stones--document the water that, on at least two dozen occasions, covered much of the earth.

The origins of Sioux quartzite date back 1.8 billion years ago in the slow and gentle currents of the first inland streams and seas. This rock began as grains of sand that water worked and sifted for a long period of time before depositing on the shore of an ancient shallow sea. Over millions of years, layer upon layer of quartzite grains grew, became compressed, and endured heat created by the sheer weight of their own burden. The compression and heat transformed the internal structure of the rock from a soft, sedimentary stone to an extremely hard and durable quartzite that, in some places, is hundreds of feet thick.

One billion years ago, Sioux quartzite was exposed over a wide area that stretched from just west of the Missouri River in central South Dakota to the bend in the Minnesota River. (Note: those rivers did not exist one billion years ago.) Throughout the course of millions of years, later inland seas added their deposits of chalk, limestone, and sandstone over large sections of this massive quartzite formation. As glaciers advanced and retreated during the Pleistocene era (geological time period marked by repeated glaciation), this large quartzite ridge was buried under tons of glacial debris. Today, only a tiny fraction of the quartzite is exposed.

Sioux quartzite, while commonly pink, can also be found in other vivid shades of color. The outcrop can vary from creamy white with a faint pinkish tint to dark blue and purple depending on the amount of iron oxide present. Sioux quartzite, long admired for its color and durability, was actively mined in regional quarries at the end of the 19th and into the early 20th century as building material. A handful of private residences, public buildings, and business faces were constructed of the stone during this time and can still be seen today.

Between the layers of glacial debris and quartzite, beds of pipestone can be found. On several occasions, water washed fine, red clay down from nearby highlands and deposited it over small areas of the great Sioux Ridge. These fine-grained layers of clay eventually dried and hardened under pressure to form shale and mudstone. These shale and clay beds turned into pipestone as a result of a chemical alteration in the sediment that contained a relatively large amount of alumina. This sediment containing alumina dried and weathered in the elements of wind and sun for a long time before being buried again by water and sand and compressed into catlinite (pipestone). The shale and pipestone deposits that are interspersed between the Sioux quartzite vary in thickness from less than one inch to almost thirty feet. However, most of the shale and pipestone deposits are thinly layered and soft. They can range from a very hard quartz siltstone to a relatively soft pipestone. Pipestone can be found in only two places in North America: Pipestone National Monument in southwest Minnesota and Palisades State Park.

Pipestone is commonly associated with prayer and the Native Americans of the Great Plains. Historians estimate that Native Americans first began gathering and carving the delicate, soft pipestone into pipes and other sculptures in about 1300 A.D. It is custom of the Native Americans to use pipes for smoking pleasure and during ceremonies. Many legends revolve around the use of the sacred red stone pipe. One story says that the Creator or the Great Spirit took a piece of the red stone and formed it into a large pipe. He then smoked the pipe and told his children to value the red stone of Mother Earth as they would their own flesh and blood and to use it to make pipes of piece. From that time forward, pipestone was considered a sacred gift from the Great Spirit to all native peoples of the Great Plains. When used in pipe form, filled with a tobacco mixture, and connected to a stem, it becomes a vehicle for sending prayers of the heart to the Spirit of all Life.

Today, Native Americans no longer come from all over the plains on pilgrimages to dig for the sacred red pipestone. However, the tradition is kept alive by a handful of Native American carvers who demonstrate and sell their work at the Pipestone Monument in Pipestone, MN.

Today, the skilled stone-cutters who worked the Sioux quartzite into elegant building structures are also long gone. However, evidence of their work can be seen in courthouses in Luverne, MN, Pipestone, MN, and Sioux Falls, SD. Now, the Sioux quartzite is mined and used primarily for stream rip-rap (rocks placed along shorelines or rivers to prevent erosion) or crushed for road fill gravel.


Raventon, Edward. "The Sioux Ridge." South Dakota Magazine, March/April 1993: 20-23. Print. 

NOT A LOGGING REQUIREMENT: Feel free to post pictures of your group at the area or the area itself - I love looking at the pictures.

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Last Updated: on 9/13/2017 7:03:23 AM Pacific Daylight Time (2:03 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum

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