Mazinaw Rock – Cloyne, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

Mazinaw Rock

This water-locked cliff face is covered in hundreds of ancient pictographs. 


Mazinaw Rock rises 330 feet from the placid surface of Ontario’s Lake Mazinaw. This majestic rock has lured travelers for centuries, beginning with the Algonquin Indians who, on this rock, documented pieces of their lives, some hundreds of years ago.

In total, the Algonquins painted over 260 pictographs on this rock, creating the largest collection of its kind, in Southern Ontario. Nevertheless, they can be difficult to see, and not just because they are marooned on an island rock in the middle of a lake. The red designs also blend together with the myriad of other colors on the rock canvas. You have to search for these rock paintings to find them.

These elusive pictographs, also give the lake and the rock their names; Mazinaw comes from “Mazinaabikinigan-zaaga’igan,” meaning “painted-image lake” in Algonquian.

These images were painted using red ochre, a natural mineral, mixed with animal oil. Red ochre was commonly used as a paint pigment in prehistoric times. It is remarkably long-lasting and most of the pictographs on Mazinaw Rock are well preserved, albeit slightly faded.

This collection of pictographs includes figures of animals, humans and geometric symbols; they depict the mythology of the Algonquin Indians. A recurring figure in the pictographs of Mazinaw Rock is Nanabush, the hero of the Anishinaabe tribes. Nanabush is sometimes referred to as the Great Hare, although he may take different forms throughout his teaching. Nanabush, somewhat elusive himself, is a trickster; nevertheless, the Anishinaabe people greatly respect him.

Today, visitors often canoe out to the rock to catch a glimpse of these remarkable ancient pictographs. There is also a massive fading tribute to Walt Whitman etched into the rock.

Know Before You Go

Mazinaw Rock is located on Mazinaw Lake, within Bon Echo Provincial Park.

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