Ancient drawings painted on the stone cliffs along the shores of Lake Superior tell the stories of generations Ojibwe. These magical hand drawn paintings date back between 150 and 400 years ago. Dramatically rising straight out of Lake Superior is Agawa Rock where red ochre figures painted on the stone to record the stories of generations of Ojibwe. Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park is an absolute must see whether you are passing through Lake Superior or stopping in for a few nights.
Getting to the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park
Located about a ten minute drive north of the Agawa Bay Campground in Lake Superior Provincial Park there are signs that are well marked on the highway make a left turn into the parking lot. From the parking lot the Pictograph trail is not a long one but the ground is not even so ensure you are wearing proper hiking footwear. As you wind down the path you pass through different geological formations which are all worth stopping to take a look at. After crossing though eroded diabase dyes and large broken boulders you arrive at the stone shelf that slopes into the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior underneath the towering cliff that is home to the pictographs.
The History of the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park
Agawa Rock is a sacred and spiritual site for the Objibwe that tells stories of celebration, great events and triumphs as well as religious and ceremonial purposes. It is thought that some of the drawings could have been drawn to represent the different Ojibwe Clans or possibly following a vision quest that was often done to obtain help from the spirits when things became dire. The drawings were believed to be done during the Spring and Summer months. Although the exact age of the drawings are unknown the images we see today tell the stories of generations of Ojibwe. Historians believe this is true and reinforced by the variations of styles of painting and subject matter drawn. The red ochre paint has proven it can stand the test of time and the harsh weather conditions of Lake Superior but the paintings are nevertheless fading and perishing as time wears on. The sun, wind, waves, ice and human touch are causing them to disappear.
Things to Note When Visiting the Agawa Rock Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park
If Lake Superior is wavy or there is a strong wind coming off the lake it could cause for very unsafe conditions to visit the paintings. The sloping rock that drops straight off into the very cold Lake Superior is already a small steep crossing on the day with best conditions, when the waves begin to lap up onto stone conditions become very slippery and dangerous. The Visitor Centre is the best place to check in to see the conditions of the Lake before you head out.
Please do not touch the pictographs! As a lover of history and want to see things preserved for many generations to come it breaks my heart when I see people rubbing their hands on these red ochre paintings. They already have to battle Lake Superiors ever changing weather conditions but to touch them makes it even worse. Ontario Parks suggest that touching the paintings damages their surfaces and will ultimately make them disappear faster.
If Lake Superior is calm and the waves are not lapping up onto the rock the best way to cross the rocks is actually in your barefeet. The rocks are becoming slippery from the amount of shoes that are crossing it every year and barefoot really seemed to give us a better grip. Nicole started the crossing in her hiking boots and found it much easier to cross in barefeet.
Dogs are not allowed on this hike.
The short trip to Agawa Bay Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park was well worth the rocky hike up and down boulders to this beautiful sacred site filled with history and mystery.
To see more of our photos from our visit too the Agawa Bay Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park make sure to check out our photo guide here!