Painted Rock Petroglyph Site preserves messages from ancestral people

More than a dozen centuries before the first blog post was published, the ancestral people of modern day Arizona shared their personal thoughts using a whole different medium: rocks.

One of over 400 boulders with images etched in them at Painted Rock Petroglyph Site.

During one of my Arizona adventures, I came across what I consider to be a primal blog of sorts: Painted Rock Petroglyph Site.

A petroglyph is a figure or design carved into stone. Many of the figures are recognizable, such as humans, lizards, snakes and deer. However, interpreting the meaning of them is not straightforward.

This could be the mother of all petroglyph sites in Arizona.

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site quick facts:

  • Located 12.5 miles (20 km) northwest of Gila Bend, AZ
  • Over 3,800 designs etched into 428 boulders
  • Petroglyphs estimated to date back at least 1400 years
  • Believed to be left by people of the Hohokam and Patayan cultural traditions
The site is located about 12.5 miles (20 km) northwest of Gila Bend and contains over 3,800 petroglyphs on 428 boulders. Archaeologists who’ve studied the etchings believe many of them are over 1400 years old.

Historical significance of Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

This remarkable place preserves stories about the lower Gila River and the various Native American communities who have lived here for millennia. The petroglyphs testify to their legacies and they speak of a time before settlers of European origin expanded into the Southwest.

Today it’s a sacred traditional place often visited by descendants of the petroglyph authors. Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Video: Up close tour of Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

What you should know before you go

Getting there

  • Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is an easy 15 minute drive north of Interstate 8 from Exit 102.
  • After you exit, go north on the paved Painted Rock Dam Road 10.7 miles to Rocky Point Road.
  • From here, go west about a half mile and look for the signs pointing the way.

Take heed of the signs restricting foot traffic to the main trail. This is to help preserve the petroglyphs. 

Fees and passes

 A $2 per person fee (cash only) at the self-pay station helps cover the costs of maintaining the grounds. The fee is waived for holders of “America the Beautiful” passes.  img_2978

Although there is a campground, there is not really much to do here other than see the petroglyphs and walk around. It’s mainly used by people traveling between Arizona and California with their campers who need a break from the road. Camping costs $8 per site per day.

Check out the Bureau of Land Management website for additional information.

Ready to go? ↓ Tap the map for directions on your smartphone. 

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