Alberta Parks Home

Rock Art Preservation

Impacts of Nature & People

The petroglyphs and pictographs of Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai´pi are remarkably well-preserved considering the ravages of time and the elements. Erosion is slowly and relentlessly taking a toll though. Water and wind, to a lesser extent, slowly erode some panels. Others disappear with the sudden collapse of a cliff or hoodoo. New laser scanners make high resolution records of the rock art images and measure their rate of erosion.

A number of ideas for conserving the rock art have been explored. These range from products designed to penetrate and strengthen the rock walls to the diversion of water to prevent erosion. Experiments with rock strengtheners appear to hold promise for stabilizing some rock art panels. They would only be used with the approval of the Niitsitapi (the Blackfoot people.)

For some Blackfoot people, the rocks' weathering is part of the natural cycle of the world. The rock art was never intended to last forever. The traditional Blackfoot belief is that, as the old petroglyphs disappear, the Spirits will make new ones. Vandalism and defacement at Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai´pi show disrespect to the Niitsitapi, the Spirits and our blackfoot heritage.

Natural forces such as erosion have an impact on the rock art.  However, graffiti and vandalism have taken the most serious toll on the park's rock art and landforms. Even touching the rock art or climbing the hoodoos can have an impact. The environment of Writing-On-Stone / Áísínai'pi is extremely fragile.

Writing-On-Stone / Áísínai´pi is rich in natural history and cultural heritage.  We work to balance visitation with protection.

Archaeological Preserve

Much of Writing-On-Stone / Áísínai´pi has been set aside as an Archaeological Preserve. This restricted access area protects fragile cultural sites, sensitive coulee habitats and nesting areas for birds of prey. Access to the Archaeological Preserve is available by guided public tours only.

Park Timeline

Year Event
1935 Land was reserved for a provincial park.
1949 An advisory committee of local residents was appointed to ensure that the park reserve was not misused.
1957 The park was established.  Members of the local community, a detachment of RCMP officers and a delegation of Kainai from the Blood Reserve attended the dedication ceremony.
1973 Archaeologists from the provincial parks department surveyed and catalogued numerous petroglyph and pictograph sites within the park.
1973-75 The NWMP outpost was reconstructed as part of the RCMP centennial celebrations.
1977 The archaeological preserve was created.
1981 A portion of the park was named a Provincial Historic Resource (the highest form of protection in Alberta).
1989 The interior of the barracks was furnished to recreate the year 1897.
2005 The park was designated Áísínai'pi National Historic Site of Canada.
2007 The new visitor centre opened.

Updated: Jul 4, 2017