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Sanilac Petroglyphs State Historic Site

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Fungi have existed for millions of years but due to their delicate nature, little is known about their ancient history
Copyright: Patty Elton - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Fungi have existed for millions of years but due to their delicate nature, little is known about their ancient history
Description - Sanilac Petroglyphs State Historic Site encompasses 240 acres in Michigan's Lower Peninsula several miles east of New Greenleaf in the region known as the "Thumb." The park is famed for the state's only known rock carvings attributed to Native American workmanship. These sandstone carvings, known as petroglyphs, were first revealed after a firestorm swept the area in 1881. Geologists have since determined that these carvings date back 300 to 1,000 years. Petroglyphs (petro = rock; glyph = carving) are manmade images pecked, scratched, or abraided into any natural rock surface using crude tools such as sticks, rocks or bone. Petroglyphs were used to record visions, events, religious rituals, and geologic landmarks conveying thoughts without words, sounds or other language forms from one generation to the next. Petroglyphs often tell of the abundant wildlife encountered thousands of years ago. This ancient form of communication is found all over the world. It is unlike hieroglyphics, which is a language. At Sanilac Petroglyphs State Historic Site mythical water panthers, a deer, and archer are legible images still seen today.

Attractions - The state historic site located within the 240-acre park features Michigan's only known rock carvings attributed to Native Americans. The petroglyphs are along the north branch of the Cass River near Cass City.

Recreation - No services offered. The park is open Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Climate - Saginaw Bay has mild to warm summers with temperatures averaging above 70 degrees F (above 21 degrees C). Winter temperatures average 18 to 22 degrees F (-8 to -6 degrees C). This is the driest region in the state with yearly precipitation amounts hovering around 28 inches.

Location - The historic site is located several miles east of New Greenleaf. To reach the park take M-53 south of Bad Axe to Bay City-Forestville Road. Then head east four miles to Germania Road and proceed south for one mile on Germania Road.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

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Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: ?

Filed By: Neil J. Lehto (Sterling Heights, MI)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: It's a short walk to the petroglyphs from the parking area. They are really remarkable to see and the walk along the river was pleasant. However, the site has not been poorly cared for, poorly financed and ill-managed. The Park entrance was not marked in any way and very easy to miss Ging south we saw nothing and drove some miles before deciding we had to come back. A glimpse of a gate and dirt parking lot through the brush were the only clues. The petroglyphs themselves, the fence and shed enclosing the large level sandstone rock they are carved into and the surrounding area has been vandalized frequently. The rock is so dirty and dusty and the lighting so poor we could hardly see them. The rock needs to be carefully cleaned and lighting provided. I do not recall seeing any picnic tables or restrooms anywhere. The trail is hardly groomed, difficult to follow in some areas because its so infrequently used. One of the bridges appeared to be in danger of collapsing at one end. There is no useful guidebooks, trail maps for anything else of that sort available.

More Information

Contact Information:
Sanilac Petroglyphs State Historic Site, 1775 Port Austin Road , Port Austin, MI, 48467, Phone: 517-373-0510

Additional Information:
Michigan State Parks and Forests - Everything that makes Michigan special is embodied in the 96 State Parks. Boasting sterling recreation, Michigan State Parks and Forests invite you to enjoy one of their 14,000 campsites, 170 winter-sport areas and infinite rivers, streams, and lakes.
Saginaw Bay - Saginaw Bay is an outdoor paradise. Travelers will find an assemblage of conveniences including marinas, charters, leisure cruises, fine dining, bed-n-breakfasts and much more including bayside golfing.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources - Official agency website.

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