Several interesting petroglyph and pictograph sites to visit in Wyoming include Medicine Lodge, Legend Rock, Castle Gardens and White Mountain.
Two kinds of Native American rock art are found in Wyoming. Petroglyphs are images created by pecking or carving an image into the rock. Pictographs are drawn or painted onto the rock surface. Though petroglyph sites are usually located in remote areas, there are several awe-inspiring sites that can be visited without too much difficulty.
Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site
The Medicine Lodge site near the Big Horn Mountains is one of Wyoming’s major archaeological sites. A magnificent 750- foot sandstone bluff is covered with rock art, both petroglyphs and pictographs. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of human habitation at this bluff dating back to 10,000 years. Interpretive signs explain the different cultures and their contributions to the site.
Location: To get to Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site, take U.S. Highway 16 , Highway 20 and then State Route 31, then turn onto Cold Springs Road. The site has a campground, but the accommodations are primitive.
Legend Rock Petroglyph Historic Site
Legend Rock is a spectacular site where over 300 petroglyphs have been carved into the rock over a span of thousands of years. The petroglyphs spring from three different prehistoric cultural groups, from 500 A.D. to the 19th Century.
Legend rock has examples of Dinwoody style petroglyphs. These types of petroglyphs are only found in a small part of Wyoming in the Wind River and Bighorn Basin area. The figures have a distinctive style and many of them have spiritual significance. They were believed to be created by the Sheepeaters, descendants of the modern-day Shoshone, and are around 3,000 to 4,000 years old.
Location: 30 miles northwest of Hot Springs State park. Visitors must obtain a key and permit to enter the site from the State Bath House at the Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis. There is no charge, but a photo ID is required. The bath House is open seven days a week from 8-5:30 Monday-Saturday and 12-5:30 Sunday.
Castle Gardens Site in Wind River Area
Hundreds of prehistoric rock carvings can be seen in the sandstone cliffs of Castle Gardens. Here, unique warriors carrying circular shields can be seen, which date around 1000 to 1250 AD. Though the identity of the artists is unknown, they are believed to be related to the modern Navajo and Apache, who also made these type of shield figures.
Location: Castle Gardens is in a remote location in Wind River canyon country, 45 miles east of Riverton. The way is over rough roads through the desert, but is reported to be well worth the effort. The site is maintained by the BLM, and there are picnic sites and interpretive signs once the site is reached.
White Mountain Petroglyphs
In this site in southwestern Wyoming, hundreds of carved figures of bison and elk hunts can be seen, as well as geometric forms. These petroglyphs date back 200 to 1,000 years ago, and depict horses and a warrior figure brandishing a sword, which shows contact with European cultures. This site is considered sacred by the Shoshone, Arapaho, and Ute.
Location: The site is approximately 26 miles northeast of Rock Springs. From Rock Springs, take U.S. Highway 191 north for 10.5 miles and turn right on Tri-Territory Road. (country Rd. 4-17). Continue another 10 miles and turn left at the White Mountain Petroglyph sign. The BLM recommends visiting in a vehicle with high clearance during good weather. No facilities.
Petroglyph sites are very fragile and are also considered sacred by Native Americans. Please respect these sites by “taking only photographs and leaving only footprints.”