Hidden in deep woods in the rocky, lake-dotted landscape northeast of Toronto, a special park guards a sacred treasure. Massive slabs of marble, cracked and eroded by time, form a clearing in the forest. Dark crevices slice the stones and lead deep into the earth. Wildflowers and saplings take advantage of the cracks between the slabs, adding splashes of color against the light gray stone. Porcupines wander across the weathered surface, looking for young trees to gnaw.

At Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Ontario
Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Ontario

The Ojibwa call this place Kinomagewapkong, the rocks that teach. On one sacred stone, hundreds of carvings depict animals, people, and spirits, the artwork of an ancient nomadic tribe. Between 500 and 1,000 years ago, the Algonkians carved these designs. They celebrate the gathering of food, the importance of certain clans, and the chasing out of unkind spirits. From these drawings, we can learn about their culture.

Canadian Petroglyphs
Detailed drawings in stone
Wildflowers growing from the Canadian Shield
Wildflowers growing from the Canadian Shield

According to legend, manitous (spirits) gather around unusual geologic formations such as these marble slabs. Shaman, people with a connection to the spirit world, communicate with the manitous through drawings. Since there are over 900 distinct carvings on this one large rock, these petroglyphs still hold major spiritual significance to the native Canadians. Ojibwa shaman place offerings of food, flowers, and tobacco upon the stones.

Petroglyphs Visitor Center
Domed Visitor Center protects these precious pieces of antiquity
To protect the site from acid rain, a large windowed building was constructed around the giant rock. Park rangers will help you interpret the symbols, and often have activities on hand to make learning about the teaching stones more fun. You might be able to make your own rubbings of some of the turtle, snake, and deer designs!

Petroglyphs Provincial Park is open during the day from May through Canadian Thanksgiving (October). It’s an hour and a half north of Toronto, on Highway 28.