Previous Post: Anishinaabe Pictograph Sites of the Canadian Shield
Any of the following Ontario locations would provide a great introduction to Anishinaabe rock paintings:
Quetico Provincial Park
Lake of the Woods/Rainy Lake region
Click on any of the above locations in blue to access the related post.
N.B. The terms Ojibway, Ojibwe, and Chippewa all refer to the same First Nations culture belonging to the larger Algonquian-speaking people who know themselves as Anishinaabe. You will note a variety of spellings for all these names as you check out other sources!
Selwyn Dewdney is the man most responsible for the systematic tracking down, recording, and analyzing the Anishinaabe pictographs of Ontario. By 1967 and the second edition of his book Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes he had recorded 264 different sites, many in Ontario with the most of the others in Manitoba and Minnesota. (See here for a pdf list of those 264 sites.) Click on the book title to see a copy of the 1962 first edition of the book, which the Royal Ontario Museum contributed to the digital Internet Archive in 2014.
Since the first edition covers only the first 102 sites Dewdney visited, it does not include his return to the Bloodvein River system or his discovery of the Cliff Lake site on the Pikitigushi (formerly the Mud) River system. However, it is still a great introduction to his work. Hard copies of the book are difficult to come by so an easily available first edition is great news.
Update: I’ve scanned the 57 pages of additional material from the 1967 second edition of the book. The 7 Mb pdf file can be accessed here.
The following fifty-year-old Dewdney maps show clearly that the heart of Ontario pictograph country lies from Lake Nipigon to the Manitoba border, with Quetico and Lake of the Woods being the primary locations.
Another insightful introduction to Ojibwa pictographs in Ontario is the book whose cover is pictured here. In the 1970’s Thor Conway and his wife Julie began their study of traditional Ojibwa culture, and specifically the rock paintings found in the Ontario part of the boreal Shield country. Over the years they have published a number of articles and books on their archeological work.
Recently (fall 2016) an updated edition of Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders was released. It provides excellent detail on a dozen different sites across Ontario – from Mazinaw Rock in Bon Echo Provincial Park in eastern Ontario to Artery Lake in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park not far from the Manitoba border. He summarizes his approach this way in the preface –
The voices of the Ojibwa elders illuminate these rock sites. By recalling oral history and legends, their knowledge helps us to understand the meanings behind the ancient carvings and paintings.
To make sites a bit easier to find, I have divided the province into the five following regions, with Highway 17 the northern limit of 1 and 2. Quetico got the #1 spot given its early importance in Dewdney’s two-decade-long quest!
Please note – While I have visited a few of the sites mentioned in this post, for the most part I am drawing from fairly meagre sources (online and at the Toronto Reference Library), as well as the occasional email contact. Some site locations that you will find here are vague and, I am sure, completely wrong! It may be the nature of the source I used; it may be my bad interpretation of that source. Over time I hope to eliminate most of the inaccurate information.
Any specific location info – GPS co-ordinates or map-indicated – you can provide to improve this post would be appreciated. So too would any jpg images you would be willing to make available to others who share your passion and interest. You can email me at email@example.com
1. Quetico Area
Quetico Master Map with forty sites indicated – kml file in my Dropbox folder here. It can be opened by the free Google Earth application installed on your computer.
The best single book on the Quetico pictographs – location, meaning, cultural context – is Michael Furtman’s Magic On The Rocks. (Click on the title for more info.) When I get to Quetico, the book will definitely be coming along. I’ve used the Furtman book for most of the locations in this section.
The Northwoods Memories website has “bulletins” of many of the Quetico and nearby BWCA pictograph sites. Included on each sheet is the location and a brief write-up of the various images at the particular site.
“Ahsin” Lake – Dewdney’s name for Payne Lake in Quetico Provincial Park
Beatty Portage – Lac la Croix west end on the Minnesota side < 1 km N of portage
Cache Bay pix and map at Jack’s Outdoor Adventure blog
Darkwater Lake (formerly Darky Lake) in Quetico – map here. Conway’s Discovering Rock Art (2016) includes a chapter on this site.
Darky Lake – see Darkwater Lake
Kahshahpiwi Lake – larger scale map here
Mckenzie Lake – the locations of two sites here
Namakan Lake (Narrows)
Payne Lake – the location of Dewdney’s “Ahsin” Lake, the 3rd of his picto site finds
Pictured Lake – also see the front cover of Dewdney’s book!
Quetico Lake – three different sites – two pix here
2. Lake of the Woods/Rainy Lake
Annie Island – Lake of the Woods (Whitefish Bay). There is a lone human figure described by Dewdney this way – “the sole but fascinating pictograph on a beautiful granite wall: a vertical zigzag of finger-width colour that ended in the head of a Maymaygwayshi.” See Rajnovich for a brief discussion of the pictograph –pp.14, 57,92,137 of Reading Rock Art
Blindfold Lake – Lake of the Woods (12 km SE of Kenora). See here in my 1.3 Mb pdf file with basic information and map
Cliff Island (Lake of the Woods) – north side of Sunset Channel/about 30 kilometers from Sioux Narrows. The exact location not yet determined – the western end on the south side of the island seems most likely. A rabbit man, an animal figure, and other images and markings. Dewdney also mentions a petroglyph site 1/2 mile to the east of the rock painting site.
Devil’s Gap Lake in Turtle Lake Provincial Park – and a part of the Turtle River canoe route – has a “great set of pictographs” according to Backroads Bill (Bill Steer). While the lake name does not appear in Federal Government topos or on the Ontario Gov’t topo site, it may be a name used by locals. Nearby is what Steer calls a dolmen stone. See his article here.
Ignace-area: unnamed lake – the Smyk site and another. See here for Ontario Archaeological Society’ Arch Notes Sept/Oct 2014 pp 10-11 for Dennis Smyk’s brief report and included photo. Google map of the Ignace area and its 1000 lakes here! Not too helpful! Smyk has apparently located some 150 pictograph sites in the Ignace area over the years.
Lower Manitou Narrows (Lower Manitou Lake)
Picture Rock Point/Western Peninsula (Lake of the Woods) – Dewdney mentions a humble rock painting site found on one of the 100+ points of the Western Peninsula! The name he gives is Picture Rock Point, one that does not appear on the topos. The pictographs, he writes, are “painted on a thick, rough encrustation of lime, and, with the exception of the human figure, are obscure.” Location – undetermined!
Portage Bay (Lake of the Woods) – site briefly mentioned by Dewdney -“the equally modest site at Portage Bay, a few miles west of Western Peninsula]”. There is another Portage Bay at the north end of the Lake at Keewatin.
Whitefish Bay – There are at least a half-dozen sites recorded in this area. Dewdney’s Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes (pp. 40-53) provides some detail on them and on the ones just to the west and north of the Aulneau Peninsula. See here for the Dewdney text.
Whitefish Bay “Hula-Girl” Island Site – Identified as the “Sioux Narrows” site by Dewdney, it faces west at the northern end of an unnamed island locally called Hula-Girl about two miles south of Sioux Point. See here for Dewdney’s discussion of the site he listed as #28.
Winnipeg River (near Eagle Bay Road in Kenora) – location here.
The Toronto Public Library system’s Central Reference Library has one copy of Jaqueline Rusak’s brief study titled “The White Otter Lake Pictograph Project:1991 Results”. A positive review of Rusak’s work in Ontario Archaeology Notes (1993-1) by Andrew Hinchelwood is accessible online here. An email from someone who attempted to locate the various sites using the study was much less enthusiastic. Locations, distances, and site descriptions were apparently often unreliable.
I had never heard of White Otter as a pictograph site before finding her study; I used it to locate the 24 White Otter Lake sites she mentions on the above Garmin Topo Canada map. The email correspondence mentioned above prompted me to reduce the sites to two on Anne Bay, supposedly two of the best, and a number of sites on the west side of Big Island. Also noted was his opinion that the Turtle River Park pictograph sites not on the lake were more impressive.
The 2012 Turtle River-White Otter Lake Park Management Plan (p.8) refers to Rusak’s study when it notes that ” Turtle River–White Otter Lake Provincial Park has documented 39 archaeological sites, 37 pictograph sites (Rusak 1992)”
3. Northwestern Region
Allanwater River (N of Termite Lake) (Wabakimi) – reported site/could not find
Artery Lake – see also Bloodvein River System. Conway’s Discovering Rock Art (2016) includes a chapter on the main Artery Lake site. See the following post for lots of images and discussion. Pictographs On The Bloodvein: The Artery Lake Site
Bloodvein River system (at least 16 sites) – see here for a chapter (pp.127-133, with one page missing) from Hap Wilson’s Trails and Tribulations in which he provides a true believer’s approach to the pictographs. Having paddled the Bloodvein River system, my brother and I were able to visit a number of the sites. You can see pictographs of the two major sites by clicking on the following titles –
Bloodvein River (Barclay Lake to Artery Lake) – a map with six sites
Bluffy Lake – Dewdney: “…includes a turtle, a partly disfigured deer, and two tally marks”
Cliff Lake (Pikitigushi River) – see here for my post on a few dozen pix of the pictographs; do not confuse this Cliff lake for the Cliff Lake in Kenora District, something that Dewdney did for a decade before realizing his mistake. Click here (pp. 135-141) for Dewdney’s discussion & drawings; see also here. Also, check out my two posts on the Cliff Lake Pictographs elsewhere in this blog.
Cochrane River (north of Deer Lake) –
Deer Lake (McIntosh Bay) – rabbit (?) picto and “a number of weathered abstractions”
Devil’s Warehouse Island (Lake Superior) – a major source of red ochre (hematite)
Dog River (mouth of) (Lake Superior)
Donnelly River – 2 sites Dewdney: ” a major group of paintings…with a smaller site less than a mile away. At both sites, the paintings appear at the foot of modest rock walls…”
Echo Rock (Lake Nipigon) – see below for Lake Nipigon
Frances Lake (Dogskin River system) – click on the blue for location and Dewdney references
Hanson Lake (Woodland Caribou PP)
Harmon Lake (Wabakimi) Brightsand River system. See here for source & location info of the above site on the north side of the bay. Dewdney would later visit the site and include it (site #151) in the second edition (1967) of his book. No info yet on the site indicated on the opposite shore.
Heathcote Lake (Wabakimi) – exact location not known
scroll to Dewdney p 78 here for mention of the Echo Rock site
We paddled by Echo Rock in September of 2018. The following post describes our time looking for pictographs. We didn’t see anything.
Lake Nipigon (Orient Bay) – see here for the pdf file with map and quotes from Dewdney and Morrisseau about the site.
Maymaygweshiwuk – mythical creatures (small and hairy) associated with rock painting sites and credited for the actual paintings by some Anishinaabe elders. They were believed to live within the rock face itself and shamans would petition them for requests of medicine, special knowledge, or other favours. See here for more information.
Lower Wabakimi Lake – site mentioned in Reid/Grand Canoeing Ontario’s Rivers
precise location yet to be determined
Mackay Lake– mentioned by Dewdney as a possibility – no confirmation as of yet
Misehkow River – one site mentioned but location unknown. We looked but didn’t find!
Murdock Lake – a part of the Bloodvein River system. Two sites located – one at the east end of the lake, the other about 1.5 km. west from the north end of the lake on the way to Larus Lake. See here for the minor site and here for the very large one. A fellow blogger also has a couple of pix here.
Northern Twin Lake
Palisade River (Wabakimi) – where the Slim River joins. There is indeed a nice rock face there but we paddled right by three times in 2012 not even knowing that there was a pictograph or two to be seen! The experience was one of my motivations for starting this series of pictograph posts the next year!
If you actually find the images on that rock face, send me a jpg of what we missed! I’ll post it right here (if you don’t mind!).
Picture Paint Lake (Kenora) – Dewdney: “only a few smearings and vestigial abstractions”
Rex Lake ( site on a little sliver of a lake west of it)
Roderick Lake – two sites with six small pictos (See Dewdney 115 for details & sketches)
Wabaskang Lake just west of Perrault Falls on road to Red Lake. The exact location of pictograph(s) not indicated
Winnipeg River (near Eagle Bay Road in Kenora) – location here
4. Northeastern Region
Agawa Rock – Canadian Encyclopedia article on Agawa Rock
I recently uploaded a post on Agawa Rock after our second visit to the site. Click on the following title – Anishinaabe Rock Paintings of Agawa Rock – A Quick Guide
The ultimate guide to the pictographs of Agawa Rock and the Lake Superior area in general is the following book by Thor Conway – (click on his name to access his site)
A YouTube poster, John Wanserski, has a very well done nine-minute video of the Agawa Rock pictographs, complete with the visuals of the trail to get there from the highway and great shots of the pictographs and of the lake. He introduces images of the actual pictographs by showing drawings of the same images first. It certainly makes clear the fragile and fading glory of the rock paintings. You can see the YouTube video here.
Alma Lake – Algoma District – see map here. Exact location not determined but most likely at the west end of the lake. One pictograph is of a crane footprint, a symbol for one of the five major doodems (totems) or kinship groupings in Ojibwe society.
Anima-Nipissing Lake (Temagami) – four different sites identified
Chiblow Lake – Algoma District – see here for a map of the lake and surroundings. Exact location(s) to be determined – lots of shoreline vertical rock to check out!
Collins Inlet (Phillip Edward Island) – two Thunderbirds, a war canoe, and a couple more. In June 2016 we visited the site. See my post Paddling Around Philip Edward Island – Part Two for more pix, another map, and discussion.
Revisiting Temagami’s Diamond Lake Pictograph Site has lots of pix and discussion.
Dog Lake (near Missanabie)
French River – Gibraltar Point. In a mid-80’s paper, Nick Adams noted that the site had been defaced by graffiti. Once visible were four canoe images, a stick figure, and other undecipherable and weathered morphs.
French River (Kennedy Island) – see here for early 1980’s paper by Nick Adams and site drawing source. Dewdney has a brief paragraph on the French River sites here. He visited the Recollet Falls site in 1958 and the two upper French sites the following year. Thor Conway’s Discovering Rock Art has a chapter on the Kennedy island pictographs (pp. 103-126) with lots of detail. See also here for my annotated version of Dewdney, pp. 92-94. We visited the site in 2019 – the following post has maps and images –
French River – just above the Highway 69 bridge on the north side of the river – a human figure, perhaps an animal image, and a couple of lines. Exact location not confirmed yet! “Just above” makes it sound closer to the road than to the cove and marina. The current drew us down this stretch at a 15 km/hr. clip. No chance of stopping either above Hwy 69 or before Recollet Falls to look for almost-gone pictographs. A wintertime visit on snowshoes might be the answer for this site and the one below near Recollet Falls!
French River – Recollet Falls – just above the falls on the north side about 1 km from the highway bridge. Dewdney notes the faint painting of “a small human figure and one other vague mark”.
Granary Lake – Algoma District – see here for general location. The location of the site not yet determined but the west shore of the lake is the most likely.
Killarney Bay – see here for the story of the pictographs’ recent origins. I include quotes from Dewdney (1962) and an Ontario Government Geological Survey (early 1980’s). See the image to the right for a pictograph panel which Dewdney says is a “site near Killarney Bay”. It is not clear if this is the one he and the Ontario Government Survey are referring to.
Lake Temagami – numerous sites indicated on the Friends of Temagami map. Jeff’s Temagami maps also indicate the various sites.
A detailed study entitled “Beyond the Sacred: Temagami Area Rock Art and Indigenous Routes“ in Ontario Archaeology (2013) by Dagmara Zawadzka is the best single source of information about pictograph sites in the Temagami area. A map with site locations, specific site overviews, and Borden numbers add to the paper’s usefulness.
Lake Temagami (North West Arm) – See here for a brief Dewdney description along with the relevant bit of Jeff’s Temagami map. There are two sites just before the narrows to Obabika Inlet. We camped there one rainy night in October and could not find anything. Send me a jpg if you do!
See my post The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake for an in-depth look with maps and references to Selwyn Dewdney’s late 1950s and Thor Conway’s mid-1980s work on the sites. A June 2017 visit by my brother and me resulted in lots of photos. While the Grave Bay site remains unconfirmed, thanks to directions provided by a reader of this post we did see another minor site on the way to Eagle Island from Grave Bay. The above post has all the details.
Mattawa River (Porte de l”Enfer) – cave site with exposed hematite veins.
Missinaibi Lake (Fairy Point) – The six pages from Dewdney’s Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes dealing with Missinaibi can be accessed here in pdf format (1.9Mb). Our June 2017 visit to the three Missinaibi Lake sites resulted in the following post –
Mica Bay (south of Agawa)
Ninth Lake – see Spanish River
Serpent River – mouth of. Not a pictograph site but two-horned serpent figures created by scratching away the black lichen. First reported in 1800 by fur trader Daniel Harmon. See Thor Conway’s article here in Arch Notes 1985 (March/April issue).
Stoffer Lake (Temagami) – one or two sites on the east side of the lake.
- See here for the Ottertooth map which locates a site to the south of the large island;
- Brian Back write-up of the site here.
- See here for Jeff’s Map site situated across from the northern tip of the large island.
Upper Grassy Lake
Spanish River (Ninth Lake) – pictographs here. Thor Conway’s Discovering Rock Art (2016) has a chapter on this site. He discusses 17 images in three different groupings, including the central panel pictured above with its Thunderbird, vertical line, series of five dots, snake, and perhaps an animal image above the canoe with the unusual Y-shaped figure in the middle.
Wizard Lake – “near Gogama, a km drive off highway 144 and 2 km paddle”
5. Southern Region
Bon Echo – see under Mazinaw Lake
Brockville – two very minor sites, one in Brockville – the Fulford Site – and the other 7 km up the St. Lawrence River at Brockville Narrows/Hillcrest. See here for Herb Sheridan’s brief article on the Brockville pictographs. He is the one who showed Dewdney the Brockville Narrows site back in 1964.
Lower Mazinaw Lake – Dewdney identified a site with three faces about 1 mile to the south of the main (Upper) Mazinaw Lake site and what he called its twenty-seven faces and 135 individual morphs or pictographs. See Mazinaw Lake below
In May of 2015, my brother and I spent a couple of days on Mazinaw Lake. We’ve created a post with pix, maps, and sketches which provide a comprehensive guide to the site. Click here to access The Pictographs of Mazinaw Rock: Listening For Algonquian Echoes.
See also Lower Mazinaw Lake and its four faces. Click here for a few pix and a map.
Petroglyph Provincial Park – not pictographs, but ON’s largest indigenous rock carvings’ site. See here for a surprising assessment of the efforts made to protect it. In May of 2015, my brother and I spent a couple of hours at the site. The result was this post –
St. Lawrence River (see Brockville above)
As you’ve noticed, there is a lot of work yet to be done – and sites to be located – before this is something truly comprehensive. Any information – pix, locations, whatever – that you’re willing to share with fellow paddlers via this post would be greatly appreciated. Credit will, of course, be given – or not, depending on your preference. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ______________________________________________________________
To get a handle on the meaning of the pictographs and the motivation of those who drew them on the stone Reading Rock Art by Grace Rajnovich is your best bet. I ordered my paper copy from Amazon in mid-2013. It is also available as a digital download.
Thor Conway’s website has a gallery (here) with pictograph images mostly from Ontario sites. Also accessible at the site are sample chapters from his various books. Titles like Discovering Rock Art In Ontario’s Provincial Parks, Spirits on Stone, and Painted Dreams are clues that you’re in the right place! I got a copy of Spirits On Stone directly from the author using contact info on the website. _____________________________________________________________
Google Books has almost an entire chapter from Bob Henderson’s Every Trail has A Story: Heritage Travel in Canada. It’s Chapter 10 (Rock Art: A Lifelong Quest and Mystery). Scroll back to p.149 for the beginning of the chapter. Henderson provides detail on three particular sites – the two Ontario sites of McCarthy Bay and Cliff Lake, and the Hickson-Maribelli Lakes site in Saskatchewan. ______________________________________________________________
An 2008 article entitled Des peintures et des offrandes: Recherches récentes en art rupestre de l’Ontario by Serge Lemaitre and Valerie Decart is available on the érudit website. Click here to read their study of pictographs based on the following Ontario sites stretching from Lake Nipigon to the Quebec/Ontario border – the Nipigon River; Worthington Bay; Devil’s Warehouse Island; Upper Grassy Lake; Gros Cap; Chiblow Lake; Lake Temagami; and Matachewan Lake.Click here for a Google map of the various locations.
The article concludes with a useful bibliography which could serve as a checklist of some of the best material in print. You will either be reading the article in French and/or making use of Google’s translate feature! One new word in my vocabulary after working my way through is the word rupestre, which turns out to be the word used in French in lieu of the English “pictograph” or “rock painting”. The Google translator confusingly translates it as “cave”. ______________________________________________________________
The Quetico Foundation website (before its redesign in 2014) had a page entitled About Quetico Park – Native Pictographs”. Among the facts found there was the number of sites – 28 – in the park. Another interesting bit of information was this statement –
In respect of the values and beliefs of the Elders of Lac La Croix First Nation related to the sacred nature of native pictographs, The Quetico Foundation has agreed to remove all photographic images of the pictographs from our Web site. In addition, as Foundation publications such as our Canoe Routes Map and brochure are updated and reprinted pictograph photographs will be removed.
Check out the new page here. While there is still mention of the 28 pictograph sites, the paragraph above seems to have disappeared. Here is the toned-down rewrite to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary –
Aboriginal peoples have lived in this region for thousands of years. In fact, 28 Aboriginal pictographs can still be sighted in the Park. For many Anishinaabe at Lac La Croix, these pictographs and their locations are sacred. To protect and respect this land, we’re deeply honored to work with and learn from the Lac La Croix First Nation.
While we are told how honoured the foundation is to work with the La Croix First Nation, the rewrite has deleted the “how”. Note also the reference to 28 pictographs; it should read “28 pictograph sites” since many of the sites have more than one pictograph. And while aboriginals may well have lived in the area for thousands of years, the consensus is that the Anishinaabe arrived perhaps three to five hundred years ago and displaced people who previously lived there.
The misguided Quetico Foundation approach is based on the same attitude that would have shut Norval Morrisseau down before he was able to develop into one of Canada’s great artists by drawing from his Anishinaabe cultural heritage. You’ve just got to laugh when you realize that it was for the Quetico Foundation that University of Toronto Press published Dewdney’s book which established the systematic study of those pictographs!
We would know very little of these entry points to Anishinaabe culture were it not for the efforts to catalogue and analyze and understand the pictographs by the many people listed here. An essential part of the study involves getting a visual record – i.e. sketching and taking photographs. In a few generations, these images will be all that is left to contemplate as the already-smeared and fading pictographs are gone forever.
I recently upped a post entitled Selwyn Dewdney, Norval Morrisseau and the Ojibway Pictograph Tradition. You may find it of interest in relation to the debate about whether pictographs – or aspects of Anishinaabe culture in general – should be shared with outsiders.