Pictographs and Petroglyphs, Places To See Them in North America

 Cave Painting, pictographs and petroglyphs, are the art of many early civilizations.  When tackling Art History or Art Appreciation it’s good to start at the beginning and this is it both in terms of time and sophistication.

Indian Painted Rocks in Spokane, Washington

What Are Pictographs and Petroglyphs?

Paintings were done on rock walls, sometimes caves, but not necessarily.  Natural paints made from ground up rocks and plants and mixed with fat or egg yolks were used to make representations of actual events, record accounts or for more mystical religious reasons.  Some of it may just be in the nature of graffiti too. Petroglyphs are pictures or representations made by chipping away bits of the rock.

We and our friends went on an expedition to see the Indian Painted Rocks in Spokane, Washington.
Our friends and we went on an expedition to see the Indian Painted Rocks in Spokane, Washington.

Expedition to See Pictographs in Person

Every continent but Antarctica has pictographs and petroglyphs.  Some are very ancient, thousands of years old and others are quite recent, a mere hundred or so years old.  There is probably a great example of some petroglyphs or pictographs near you.  Read up a bit about the subject then go see some in person.  Here is a list of some from all over the US and a few in Canada.  If you know of another great place leave a comment letting everybody know.

  • Painted Cave, California
  • Burro Flats Painted Cave, California
  • Chumash Painted Cave Historic Park, California
  • Picture Cave, Missouri
  • Thousand Hills State Park, Missouri
  • Washington State Park, Missouri
  • Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, Texas
  • Blackwater Draw, New Mexico
  • Village of the Great Kivas, New Mexico
  • Buckhorn Wash, Utah
  • Wild Horse Canyon, Utah
  • Rockhouse Cave, Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
  • Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve, Hawaii, Hawaii
  • Sears Point, Arizona
  • Gold Butte, Nevada
  • Colbert County Bluff shelter, Alabama
  • Crystal River State Archaeological Park, Florida
  • University of Georgia Campus, Georgia (rocks moved from their original location and placed on the campus, outside Museum of Art and in Law School Garden)
  • Track Rock Gap, Georgia
  • Millstone Bluff National Register Site, Illinois
  • Dighton Rock State Park, Massachusetts
  • Sanilac Petroglyphs State Park, Michigan
  • Jeffers Petroglyph State Park, Minnesota
  • Pipestone National Monumant, Minnesota
  • Seton Hall University Museum , New Jersey
  • Judaculla Rock, North Carolina
  • Inscription Rock, Ohio
  • Leo Petroglyph, Ohio
  • Indian God Rock, Pennsylvania
  • Montgomery Bell State Park, Tennessee
  • Ceredo Historical Museum, West Virginia
  • Roche-a-Cri State Park, Wisconsin
  • Columbia Hills State Park, Washington
  • Indian Painted Rocks, Washington (in Spokane)
  • Wees Bar, Idaho (in the Snake River Canyon, downstream from Swan Falls Dam)
  • Jaguar Cave, Idaho
  • Pictograph Cave State Park, Montana
  • Petroglyph Canyon, Montana
  • Pompey’s Pillar, Montana (William Clark also signed the rock in 1806)
  • Writing Rock State Historical Site, North Dakota
  • Medicine Bear Creek, Wyoming
  • Peterborough Petroglyphs, Ontario, Canada
  • Petroglyph Park, British Columbia, Canada

Additional Layers

  • For more on caves go here.
  • When you go see the native art don’t forget to learn more about the people and the culture that produced it.
  • What does it take to make paint that lasts?  Learn more about the science of paint.  Make your own paint.
  • What kinds of rock are the paintings or petroglyphs done on?  Learn about the geology of the area.
  • We painted our own Pictographs on a big rock outside our house.  You can paint on a rock too.rock_painting
  • This Expedition is part of Layers of Learning Unit 1-1.  You can get it free by signing up for our newsletter!



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