Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Pipestone Prairie

As usual, we did not fully know what we were going to see when visited Pipestone National Monument.  I thought it would be some memorial of a pile of rocks,  certainly not expecting to see 50 quarries of various sizes, and an absolutely beautiful prairie!  Two centuries ago Minnesota had 18 million acres tall grass prairie, today the remaining prairie is less than 1% of its original acreage.  Elk and buffalo provided meat, clothing and tools for the Plains Indians.  Plants of the prairie provided medicine and food.  The first botanist in 1838 found 100 different plant species, currently the number is 300.
What a stunning sea of red!  Fortunately the park has signs identifying many of the plants.  Smooth sumac plants give the prairie a hue of red during this time of the year.  Also in bloom now is the blue vervain, daisy  fleabane and stiff goldenrod.  The latter is pictured below.
The trail through the park took us along Pipestone Creek.  According to oral Indian tradition, it was along this stream where pipestone was first discovered.  Seasonal flooding of the creek may have exposed the rock, and/or it could have been the rutted trails created by buffalo drinking from the stream which revealed the red rock layer under the quartzite.  Speaking of that rock, the end of our trail took us to some very high cliffs made of that stone.  Pictured below is Old Stone face.
One last picture here is of Winnewissa Falls, I certainly did not expect to see such high falls out in the plains.  What a beautiful place this park is for Native Indians to have as their sacred ground to always return to, not just to quarry but to also worship the Great Spirit of their faith.

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