More photos from Pipestone National Monument
Pipestone Travel Blog› entry 22 of 61 › view all entries
We only worked a part day today so I drove the 45 minutes down to Pipestone to see the famous rocks that I knew nothing about and figured I should. Plus, it was a gorgeous, warm, fall day just perfect for a drive.
It was easy enough to find the park by following the signs and soon I was there. I really didn't know anything about the park or even what to expect. It was only $3 to enter (or $5 per carload) so I figured I couldn't go wrong there. The park ranger gave a brief overview of the monument, handed me a little informational booklet and I took off down the 3/4 mile Circle Trail. I wanted to see some rocks!
The trail was nice and had several markers along the way.
At an ancient time the Great Spirit, in the form of a large bird, stood upon the wall of rock and called all the tribes around him, and breaking out a piece of the red stone formed it into a pipe and smoked it, the smoke rolling over the whole multitude.
Near the falls, you can opt to take a longer, roundabout path up some natural stone steps to the top of the quartzite outcrop. From up there you can see carvings in the stone by early American Pioneers and early explorers. You also see the top of Leaping Rock (Old Stone Face from the bottom). This rock is associated with young Indian men making the leap to show their bravery.
You walk around the top of the falls and down some stone steps to get back to the main trail. A little bridge takes you over the creek past Winnewissa Falls. The trail follows along the base of the quartzite wall and through a wooded area. You can go up some steps to view the Oracle - a stone face that Medicine Men claim speaks to them. The trail comes back through the prairie and past the main quarry area. You can see several prayer cloths tied to the trees, possibly for good fortune during the quarrying process or to give thanks for the stone.
Next to the visitor center you can enter an old quarry and walk on the pipestone. It can be slippery when wet, but was fine for me. Pushing a button on a speaker will give you more infomation on the quarrying process. The pipestone is 10-15 feet underneath some hard, pink quartzite and only accessible by removing the overburden by hand. This is a slow process as you can only use sledgehammers, chisels, wedges, and the like. Anything more and you risk damaging the pipestone. This little observation quarry shows poor quality pipestone left in place on the floor but you can see a little of the more desirable red pipestone a few inches above quarry floor (I have acorns for scale).
Inside the Visitor Center, two people were giving cultural demonstrations. One man was cutting fresh stone and shaping it into a pipe using a saw and file. He had just started and so only the rough shape was visible. He had some examples of unfinished pipes and carvings as well as a photo book showing the quarrying process. He answered many of my questions (mostly related to the rock and quarrying). I asked him what they did with the unusable pieces (hoping to score some) and he said he the more usable pieces are given to the women for carving and the rest is returned to the earth, to honor the earth and show respect for the gifts that were given.
Near the demonstration area was an exhibit of petroglyphs on several stones from near the Three Maidens. There was a small room showcasing several pipes, carvings and old bead work. The giftshop had several items for sale made from pipestone.
On the way out of the park is the Three Maidens - a large glacial erratic (granite from Canada) that has since broken into several smaller blocks (but are still large). The rocks are believed to shelter the spirits of some maidens that require offerings before quarrying the pipestone.
And then I drove the 50 minutes back to my hotel in Marshall.