Category   Petroglyph Provincial Park, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island BC
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Rock carvings in Petroglyph Provincial Park
Petroglyph Provincial Park, at the south end of Nanaimo where the Nanaimo River empties into Northumberland Channel, presents a look back in time to a prehistoric period perhaps a millennium ago.

Mythological sea creatures - wolves in particular - animals, symbolic designs, events and human figures have skillfully been outlined in the sandstone surface of the rock by the native people inhabiting the area some time in the past.

Called petroglyphs today, these exquisite symbolic etchings are richly concentrated in the 2-hectare Petroglyph Park. Locations for rock art carvings were chosen carefully, and were almost always made at places of power or mystery places where the forces of nature were believed to be especially strong. Examples of this art form exist elsewhere, and are found in the Nanaimo area and in other locations on Vancouver Island and the neighbouring islands, but rarely can they be viewed in such concentration as here.

The rock carvings, or petroglyphs, were made by pecking and abrading selected rock surfaces with stone tools. Locations for rock art carvings and paintings were carefully chosen. They were places of power or mystery; places where the forces of nature were believed to be especially strong. They are marked by unusual natural features such as waterfalls, rock formations or caves. Nearly all sites are near water and may also be near old village sites or along trails or ancient trade routes.

The rock carvings tempt visitors to transport themselves way back in time, to thousands of years before Europeans explored these shores. They invite speculation, provoke thought and mystify all who view them.

Petroglyph Provincial Park was established in 1948 to protect the cultural relics. The petroglyphs are more than one thousand years old, but are quickly becoming extinct due to the effects of both man and nature.

The park is a place of dreams for the Snuneymuxw First Nations, and years ago the park was a spiritual refuge for the Snuneymuxw, but as visitor traffic increased and more people began visiting the park, it has lost its sense of otherworldly solitude. This is where the powerful shaman Thauxwaam was turned to stone by the creator Xaals as punishment for his arrogance and disrespect to the Xaals.

A short, wheelchair-accessible walkway leads from the parking lot to an interpretive area with information boards and a display of concrete replica casts taken from the nearby petroglyphs. The sandstone gallery of the originals is just a short distance farther along the walkway on a hill that overlooks the Nanaimo Harbour.

Visitors who would like to take away an example of this ancient artwork can make rubbings on paper of the coffee-table size moulds. Cloth or paper is stretched across the carving and lightly rubbed with crayons, charcoal or wax, leaving a reverse image printed on the cloth.

Facilities at the park are restricted to a day-use picnicking area and pit toilets. Visitors are requested to respect the cultural significance of the park and its rock carvings by staying on designated trails to protect the petroglyphs and vegetation.

Petroglyph Provincial Park is located on Vancouver Island, on the east side of the Trans-Canada Highway, 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Nanaimo. A pulloff is provided for park visitors.

Nearby Towns
Island Highway 19
Yellow Point
Nearby Services
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  NorthGate Pub, Nanaimo
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  Seaside Getaway at Inn of the Sea, Yellow Point
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Park Notices
Park User Fees (Parking Fees and Camping Fees)
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