You are here

Writing Rock State Historic Site

-A A +A
1000–1700. 94th St. NW, 1 mile east of 145th Ave. NW, 13.6 miles northeast of Grenora
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)

Writing Rock State Park preserves an intriguing artifact from prehistoric Native American traditions that predates even oral history traditions of any current Native American group. Two granite boulders are incised with thunderbird figures. Comparable sacred rock art sites are found at only a few archaeological sites on the northern Great Plains, for example in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Wyoming. As interpreted by modern-day archaeology, thunderbirds are mythological figures associated with lightning and thunder in traditions of the Algonquian and Siouan-speaking people, including the Plains Cree, Plains Ojibwe, Gros Ventre, Crow, Dakota (Sioux), Mandan, and Hidatsa. In 1936, concern over potential vandalism motivated the State Historical Society to acquire the site. In 1956, a fieldstone kiosk was constructed to shelter and enclose the stone. As intriguing as the unexplained petroglyphs, the site of this object is equally dramatic, leading visitors along subtly ascending graveled roadways to a powerfully sublime landscape setting positioned high above all surrounding vistas. Clearly this place was understood as a site of sacred meaning and of such power and presence as to be unmistakable to present-day visitors.

Writing Credits

Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay


What's Nearby


Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay, "Writing Rock State Historic Site", [Grenora, North Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of North Dakota

Buildings of North Dakota, Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 147-147.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.