Legend Rock petroglyphs: LAPC

In June, I visited Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site near Thermopolis, Wyoming. The quarter-mile-long sandstone cliff at an isolated site is adorned with hundreds of Legend Rock petroglyphs. When you walk the trail beside these images, it is truly a step back in time.

Seeing Legend Rock petroglyphs up close

Legend Rock petroglyphs

More than 300 petroglyphs have been identified on 92 rock panels. The oldest are at least 10,000 years old. The petroglyphs were carved by “ancestors of today’s Numic-speaking Eastern Shoshone tribe.” 

Due to the fantastical nature of the images carved here, this site is thought to have been used by individuals on vision quests. The images were carved so long ago, their exact meanings are unknown.

Legend Rock petroglyphs

In 1973, the state acquired the site and later that year, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The site included sections owned by the state and federal government, and private landowners. In 2015, local landowner Richard Wagner donated the last part needing protection.

Cliff face

Though some of the pictures are recognizable, like the small hoofed animal on the right side below, others are not. The figure on the right almost looks like it’s standing on legs on the top of its head.

Close view of rock art

Other Legend Rock petroglyphs are more geometric, like the nested circles in the middle right below.

Rock art

The one pictured below looks like a figure within a figure.

Legend Rock petroglyphs

Here’s a closer look.

close view of rock art

Enhancing images

Over time, some carvings have faded. This area sees cold, snowy winters and blazingly hot summers.

To see these petroglyphs more clearly, I’m sharing an enhanced picture. I used the Auto level and increase saturation settings on the Rock Art Enhancer app. This app includes several tools to enhance images.

  • Fading Legend Rock petroglyphs
  • Enhanced petroglyph

Some of these show creatures not seen on other panels. The one on the right side looks like a lizard.

Fading petroglyphs

I liked the Legend Rock petroglyphs on both the left and right side on these panels.

Legend Rock petroglyphs

I especially liked the thunderbird petroglyph. The more human-like figures nearby almost look like they have wings.

I’m sharing another image of these petroglyphs using the Rock Art Enhancer app. This time I used the D. stretch YUV setting. The psychedelic colors create a more mystical interpretation.

  • Thunderbird petroglyph
  • Enhanced petroglyph

Several of the panels include hooved animals. This one was larger in scale than most of the others.

Rock art

Some appear to be wearing elaborate headdresses, like the one shown near the bottom of this panel.

Headdresses on petroglyphs

Others appear more human, like the one on the lower left.

Rock art figures

The panel below shows a group of figures.

Legend Rock Petroglyphs figures


Unfortunately, visitors to Legend Rock defaced parts of the site with their own carvings. This one has “WH” carved on the left, “R.H. 1900” carved in the middle, and “MO 1911” carved on the right.

Vandalism to petroglyphs

This panel shows more recent carvings. The left panel shows a modern day house. Someone carved the letters “JC” into the one on the right.

Vandalism to rock art

Disturbing sites like these can be a state and federal felony so please admire them from a distance. Security measures, including video-surveillance, helps protect the site from vandalism today. Thorny greasewood shrubs, and the occasional rattlesnake hiding among the boulders, should also discourage visitors from getting too close to this sacred site.

Visiting the site

Hot Springs State Park, in Thermopolis, manages this site. From May to September, the interpretive center is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. The rest of the year, visitors can get a key for the center at the State Bath House, Thermopolis Chamber of Commerce, and Hot Springs County Museum.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Time

26 thoughts on “Legend Rock petroglyphs: LAPC

  1. This is a fabulous find and perfect for the challenge, Siobhan. I have always been fascinated with petroglyphs. I am glad these are on the National Register of Historical Sites. I know you used Rock Enhancer, but with or without it, the markings are so clear and detailed. I liked the psychedelic one…for fun. A possible vision quest? Thanks for sharing this place and your use of the app. I am always amazed as much as these are studied, we might not ever really know what they mean. Fantastic collection of photos.

  2. Absolutely awesome post about an absolutely awesome place. Just imagine the petroglyphs produced back then for the pre-cursors to the modern day photo challenges on WordPress! WordPress back then was the walls of the canyons and new petroglyphs added over time for specific challenges: psychedelic petroglyphs, humanoid petroglyphs, big game trophy petroglyphs. Clearly proof of ancient precursors to the social media of today. Kinda fun to imagine, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences there.

  3. Wonderful interpretation of this amazing rock art. Discover Thermopolis in downtown Thermopolis has dirt shirts with some of these carvings printed on them.

    • You’re welcome, John! I’m glad there wasn’t more vandalism. Nice to know they’ve added security cameras to the site.

  4. Well Siobhan, your post most certainly illuminates the passage of TIME and made me think of the many who went long before us and of course those who will come after. I’d not heard of the site but it’s amazing. Sad that anyone would defile such history. And crazy that there’s actually a rock art enhancer app LOL! Really interesting post.

    • Thanks, Tina! I was waiting for a good prompt to use that post. We’ve been to Thermopolis before, but had never visited that site. It really is amazing!

    • You’re welcome! Yeah, it’s sad to see the vandalism. The isolated location protects it but makes it vulnerable at the same time.

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