OHIO RIVER TRAIL COUNCIL

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Smith Ferry Indian Rocks

Rock art is an archaeological term used to refer to human-made markings placed on natural stone.Such artworks are often divided into three forms: petroglyphs, which are carved into the rock surface, pictographs that are painted onto the surface and earth figures, engraved into the ground. The local site of ancient rock carvings is located in a town once known as Smiths Ferry, about a mile north of Little Beaver Creek on the north shoreline of the Ohio River.

The rock art sites along the upper Ohio River valley in Beaver County, Pennsylvania generally depict animals and animal tracks to human images. Several types of birds, including the Duck, Goose, Sandhill Crane, Thunderbird, Wild Turkey, as well as fish, turtles, and human feet are carved into the massive sandstone shelf that extends out into the Ohio River. The Smiths Ferry Petroglyph area encompassed nearly three acres. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History produced about 100 plaster castings and photographs of the site in 1902. Most of the early pictures ever printed of the mysterious site has been a group of postcards from 1908. Albeit, pictures of Smiths Ferry’s Indian Rocks have been published in the National Geographic and Joseph Henderson Bausman’s History of Beaver County from 1904.

Archeologist believe that the Monongahela People, a late prehistoric group, created the Smith Ferry Petroglyphs, between 1200-1750 A.D. Unfortunately, most of the site has been destroyed or submerged by water when the Ohio River Lock & Dams were constructed for navigation.  Before the dams was erected, the Ohio River was known to dry up at Smiths Ferry during the summer season and people traveled by horse and buggy from as far as Pittsburgh, crossing over the dry river bed, to view the historical Indian site. The Petroglyphs were last viewed in the winter of 1960 when the water level was unusually low.

 

The Ohio River Passenger Railway ran Yellow Car Specials to Smiths Ferry to view the ancient rock art before the Ohio River Wooden Wicket Lock and Dam Number 8 was built. In 1929, the canalization project on the Ohio River was finished. The project produced 51 wooden wicket dams and 600 foot by 110-foot lock chambers along the length of the river. 

 

  

 

  

 

For additional information regarding Pennsylvania Petroglyphs, please visit www.greenway.ohiorivertrail.org/index.php/petroglyphs-of-pennsylvania. 

 

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