Rural Missouri Magazine

Ancient writings
Washington State Park

by Jim McCarty

Standing on a high bluff overlooking Big River in Washington State Park, it’s easy to see this was sacred ground to the Indians who once called it home. They left behind a record of their presence in a series of stone carvings, or petroglyphs, like those pictured on our cover.

Petroglyphs can be found elsewhere in Missouri but Washington State Park, located between DeSoto and Potosi, contains almost two-thirds of the Indian stone carvings yet discovered in Missouri.

They are found in three clusters. One group, covered by a fiberglass roof and reached by a short boardwalk, is just a stone’s throw from Highway 21.

The Indians weren’t the only group that left beautiful stone art at the park. Between 1934 and 1939, an all-black company of the Civilian Conservation Corps set up camp at the park and built many of the beautiful stone stuctures that are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inspired by the Indian carvings, they made their own stone thunderbird to grace the entrance to the dining lodge.

They also laid the 1,000-step trail that winds uphill from what is now the camp store. The intrepid will find a magnificent view of the Big River valley at the top (photo at left). The park offers camping, cabin rentals, swimming, canoeing and fishing.

For more information call (636) 586-5768 or visit the park’s Web site at


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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