|Hole-in-the-Mountain WMA & County Park|
These 3 areas are remnants of what was once a 4,300-acre prairie landscape. They are situated on a steep valley along the outer edge of the Coteau des Prairie, a flat highland that formed by glaciers between the James and Des Moines River basins. Its plant communities include 200 species of wild ...
Pipestone National Monument
|Description: Pipestone National Monument is located in the region commonly known as the Coteau des Prairies (the Highland of the Prairies). Established by Congress in 1937 to protect the historic red pipestone (catlinite) quarries, this site offers an opportunity to explore American Indian culture and the natural resources of native tallgrass prairie.
The Monument has some of the only native prairie habitat left in southwest Minnesota, giving home to numerous plants and animals that once flourished throughout the Midwest. Dominant plant communities include; virgin native, restored and degraded prairie and oak savanna. The Red Pipestone Quarries, a Sioux quartzite cliff line and Pipestone Creek bisect the 300-acre site.
Quarries excavated by American Indians dot the middle of the monument. The Sioux quartzite outcrop forms a 10-15 foot tall cliff line and supports the Sioux quartzite prairie, which has been identified by the Nature Conservancy as a globally significant and endangered plant community type.
The site hosts more than 500 species of plants, many of them rare. Ever changing waves of prairie blooms ripple through the seasons. Depending on when you visit, you may see big bluestem, Indian grass and prairie cordgrass and the lovely blossoms of purple prairie clover, yellow lady’s slipper, blazing star, and purple and yellow coneflowers.
The blending of historical, cultural and natural resources at this location makes it a remarkable place to visit.
Wildlife to Watch: Some state-listed rare plant and animal species call Pipestone National Monument home, including a federally threatened plant and an endangered fish. Beginning at the visitor center, the ¾ mile self-guided Circle Trail loops past the quarries, Winnewissa Falls and tallgrass prairie ecosystems where a wide variety of wildlife may be seen from the trail.
More than 100 bird species have been documented here, although during the spring and fall months, additional migratory species may be seen. Listen to the calls and songs of savannah, grasshopper, vesper and clay-colored sparrows. Bobolinks, horned larks, dickcissels and western meadowlarks also inhabit the area. Watch too for field sparrows, downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, northern and orchard orioles, great blue herons, wild turkeys and American woodcocks. Upland sandpipers, related to shorebirds but adapted for life in drier areas, may also be spotted. Their bubbling calls and “wolf-whistles” are special sounds in Minnesota’s western prairies. Prairie falcons have been recorded in winter.
Generally wet springtime conditions allow for the presence and reproductive success of several species of amphibians. Snapping and painted turtles enjoy the waters of Pipestone Creek and the ephemeral ponds that occur throughout the prairie. Plains garter snakes and northern prairie skinks prefer the Sioux quartzite prairie. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a tiger salamander. Listen and look for the calls and choruses of American toads, western chorus, northern leopard frogs and Cope's/gray treefrogs.
Mammals to look for include white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrats, short-tailed weasels, mink, thirteen-lined ground squirrels and plains pocket gopher. This oasis is home to a surprising number of small fish as well.
Special Tips: For centuries, American Indians have quarried for the red pipestone used to make ceremonial pipes and other objects. American Indians continue to quarry for the pipestone to this day. This protection helped preserve the native tallgrass prairie. Learn about past and current uses of the park at the interpretive center. The Circle Trail Guide Book is available.
Other Activities: For those interested in diminutive wildlife, 55 families of insects (over 900 specimens have been collected) and 45 macro-invertebrate species have been recorded at the Monument. Bring your magnifying glass!
Ownership: National Park Service
Size: 300 acres
Closest Town: Pipestone
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: