Sunday, August 19, 2018

Checking Out Pipestone National Monument

Between the prairie and our upcoming 'required' stop sat Native American sacred grounds that have been set aside and preserved for everyone to explore.

We walked the paved path which begins with a beautiful, preserved section of Tallgrass Prairie.

The path was well signed with the names of many of the flowers and grasses that are found on the prairie.

We saw many that we had not seen on our previous walk at Rock Ridge.

Wild Bergamot - Monarda fistulosa

Starry Campion - Silene stellata

Although we saw Culver's Root at our last stop; we had not seen it blooming like this one.

Hiding in the tallgrass was a Dickcissel.  Always good to get a second sighting of a new bird in a different location.

The pipestone, however, is the reason for this journey.

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The official name is Catlinite and it is a metamorphosed mudstone which is prized by Native Americans for making ceremonial pipes.

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Although you see a lot of red in the rock, it is not all the desired pipestone.  Much of it is Sioux Quartzite.  The pipestone lays between layers of the harder quartzite. 

A neat thing about the monument is that enrolled Native Americans are still allowed to quarry for pipestone at the monument.  Only hand tools are used to reach the catlinite so it takes a long time to get to but it is still an active quarry.  Estimates are that digging originated in this quarry sometime in the 17th century and it is said that Native Americans believe that the pipestone is the blood of their ancestors.

Solomon's Seal plant with fruit and a Pipestone / Sioux Quartzite backdrop

Even though we are more mid-states, we are still seeing the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

We grabbed a pretty decent shot of the topside of the Question Mark Butterfly's markings

and a not too shabby shot of the white comma with the dot that makes him the Question Mark.

There are some formations in the rocks.  Do you see the profile in the center of the photo?

It is called the Oracle.  If you are real quiet it may tell you something very important. 

Continuing on down the path...

We pass Winnewissa Falls - an unexpected treat as is the river running through the park that creates them.

Not sure if the Old Stone Face is believed to be as wise as the Oracle but it was cool that there were two stone faces in the park.

Another view of the falls from lower on the trail.

As we walked along the path looking at flowers and bugs, we also listened to the birds.  Nicole became distracted by the sound of one and stopped to try to spot it in the trees.

She didn't find the bird making the noise.  But she did find....

our first and much anticipated sighting of the Common Nighthawk!  LIFER!

What a beautiful and unique bird.  A very exciting sighting, for sure, given how well camouflaged they are .

This Green Heron

found this scenic little falls a great place to go fishing.

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We found the river crossing

a great little place to sit for a bit

until the skeeters chased us on down the road.