We're not doing any extended road trip like we did last summer and a few years earlier, but that doesn't mean that we're not getting out and seeing cool things. Just this past Sunday we drove down to Washington State Park (in Missouri), about an hour from home. What's there of interest? That's actually what we wanted to find out, knowing only that it's a heavily forested and hilly region that we've driven past several times on the way to our favorite winery.

The first thing we discovered there were the petroglyphs.


I'll share in the same order we discovered these, starting with the informational sign, in case you're not sure what a petroglyph actually is (it's a rock carving):

To be honest we only glanced at this sign before making our way to the actual thing, seen from a walkway under a protective roof. (I took the photo on the way back to the car.)

These are all on the ground, so we're looking straight down:

Luckily the first you encounter are pretty easy to spot. You can see the thunderbird there in the middle, and an arrow above it -- that signifies a lightning bolt. Can you spot the other images?

The signage shows you what to look for. Zoom in and read the text if you can. If you can't, thunderbirds deliver lightning bolts by bird -- the birds carry them. You can see a couple of birds depicted.

Note that these are pretty small: the thunderbirds above are probably only 4" (10cm) or so tall.

These things are around 1000 years old, so they're a bit harder to see than when they were fresh I'm sure. The next one has another easy-to-spot thunderbird:

On the north side of the walkway though, things are tougher to see:

I see a rectangle, but what else? Don't know (and didn't snap a photo of the sign). The next one is tough too:

Let's cheat!

Okay, if you flip between those two images you can see some of them... but are those ovals really symbolic of fertility? Or are they just the easiest thing to carve?

I imagine the artist elder painstakingly etching the human forms, hours or days of work, barely getting a nod from the rest of the tribe. Then the young upstart "artist" moves in and scoops out a few ovals, taking no care and little time, praise lavished on his bold shunning of detail to more truthfully capture the "essence" of what fertility is to his generation.

Maybe I'm reading into it too much. Let's see more!

Back on the south side of the walkway... this is where the real action is! Clearly "Scoops" has been at work over here too, but you've got to be impressed with the spiral...

...and I think I see a Totoro in there? That darn catnip is blocking my view! (Glad to see it grows in cracks in Nature too, not just in my yard!)

Answers please:

Let's see a closeup of the spiral, which is probably a snake? Yep, the sign above says it's a "coiled rattlesnake",  and is a symbol of rain.

The next formation:

Some new symbols in that one, but I didn't snap the sign. I'm guessing "fertility" and "rain".

That last one has some "turkey tracks" in the middle... probably for good hunting? We do have a lot of turkeys in Missouri ("an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 birds, among the largest populations in the nation")

Here's the key to the entire display, with the bottom of the image being the south side of the walkway:

I'd zoom in to that image if you can. Why does it seem like there are way more pictures on the north side, when it's so hard to make any of them out? Some of those look like directions!

This was a really surprising find -- very interesting and fun too. A great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday!


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Lisa  – (July 12, 2018 at 7:49 AM)  

How fun! I understand that we know the images are symbolic and each mean something - I'm just not quite sure how they know (or think they know?) exactly what they mean. The thunderbird is interesting as it appears in glyphs in other parts of the world - evidence of traveling tribes? Or a shared experience? A mystery for sure!

Hoover Boo  – (July 12, 2018 at 8:14 PM)  

That is really cool--did not know about these. After 1,000 years of rain and some snow now and again, stone does wear down.

As a gardener I do feel some kinship with these earlier Americans--hoping for rain is pretty universal!

Rebecca  – (July 12, 2018 at 10:17 PM)  

What an interesting place to visit. Now I'm off to read about your road trips.

outlawgardener  – (July 16, 2018 at 11:21 AM)  

Very interesting indeed. If they only had a dremel tool, this would have been much easier:)

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