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Last updated by bstrege on 4/6/2021 3:59:05 PM

Pictographs are paintings or drawings made by the Native Americans on rocks or cliffs. The Boundary Waters area has some great examples of pictographs. The paintings usually are of moose, canoes, and people, although there are many other things that the Native Americans drew.

Seeing pictographs reminds me that this beautiful place is not my own. It belonged to others long before we arrived here. The paintings make me wonder what their life was like, living on these waters both in summer and winter. Why did they make these paintings? What do they represent? These are questions that scholars still debate, but the pictographs, to me, just add to the awe of the Boundary Waters.

Magic on the Rocks by Michael Furtman is the most comprehensive guide to the pictographs in the Boundary Waters and Quetico. Also, while I haven't used them, it appears that Northwoods Memories Multimedia Productions' Pictograph Bulletins would be very helpful. That website also contains a much longer and more complete list of pictographs in the BWCA/Quetico than I have provided below.

I included below a short list of pictographs found in the BWCA. 


North Hegman Lake

Pictographs at North Hegman Lake
Pictographs at North Hegman Lake
By Etphonehome (Own work) [GFDLCC-BY-SA-3.0 or 
CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The pictographs at Hegman Lake are probably the clearest examples of pictographs in the Boundary Waters region. They are easy to get to since they are very close to an entry point (#77 South Hegman Lake). Because of this, they are also a very popular attraction in the area.


Fishdance Lake

I actually visited and saw the pictographs on Fishdance Lake, but I somehow forgot to take pictures. The pictographs are located on a cliff near the north end of Fishdance Lake close to Alice Lake. The closest entry points are #27 - Snowbank Lake#30 - Lake One, and #37 - Kawishiwi Lake. There are several panels along the cliff showing different scenes - moose, canoes, and people. It is a popular attraction in the area. When I went, there were several groups waiting to see the pictographs.



Agnes Lake (Quetico)

Pictograph at Agnes Lake
Pictograph at Agnes Lake (Quetico)
By D. Gordon E. Robertson (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Agnes Lake in Quetico Provincial Park has at least three different pictograph sites. Agnes Lake is most easily reached through Basswood Lake in the Boundary Waters.


Rocky Lake

The Rocky Lake pictographs are small and simple, but they are quite clear and easy to view.

Rocky Lake pictographs

Kawnipi Lake

Kawnipi Lake is supposed to have pictographs in three locations. This one is quite faded, but features three figures in a canoe. It is located right near the middle "crossroads" of Kawnipi.



Additional Links:

Venture North : Native American Pictographs

The mystery of the Hegman Lake pictographs

Interpreting the Pictographs of North Hegman Lake, MN

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