Indian Painted Rocks – Spokane, Washington - Atlas Obscura
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Spokane, Washington

Indian Painted Rocks

Protected from the elements, these Native American rock paintings have survived approximately 250 years. 

About 250 years ago, Native Americans living along the Little Spokane River painted figures onto rocks with red paint. The porous rocks absorbed the paint, so the rock art became a permanent feature. They can be still be seen today in the Little Spokane River Natural Area, in the city named for the tribe that created the paintings.

The Painted Rocks site was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, citing its significance for having survived over the years intact. Most Native American pictographs in the area were located along river banks that were covered in water by dams built in the 20th century. 

It is believed that members of the Spokane tribe created the paintings around 1750, because the images may depict horses and a cross, signs that European settlers were living in the area. However, the content, meaning, and interpretation of the pictographs are still up for debate.

Know Before You Go

The rock formation containing the paintings is easily accessible from the parking lot of the Little Spokane River Natural Area parking lot, also known as the Indian Painted Rocks trailhead. Look for the metal grate protecting the site. This recreation area is popular with hikers and kayakers. A parking fee or Discovery Pass is required for the parking lot.