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Part of the Minnesota Historical Society, the Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwest Minnesota share Native American history with visitors.

Petroglyphs are ancient rock carvings, and the Jeffers Petroglyphs are at a Native American site located on a geological feature known as Red Rock Ridge. This site of Sioux quartzite has more than 5,000 glyphs that represent Native Americans from most of North America, according to site manager David Briese, one of two Native American tour guides at the site.

Groups can participate in the daily 45-minute tour of the rock, following a guide who will point out and teach visitors about the visible petroglyphs.

“Depending on the weather, you’re going to see different petroglyphs,” Briese said. “There really isn’t a bad time to go unless it’s raining.”

If a group is larger than 15 participants, it can be broken into smaller groups to visit stations of the site, such as the atlatl range, where visitors can learn how to throw Native American spears.

There also is a barefoot walking tour experience where groups of up to 60 participants can explore the rock carvings informally, likely finding hundreds of petroglyphs. Briese said this time of day offers optimal sunlight for visitors to find the carvings themselves, though guides are present to assist.

Jeffers Petroglyphs
Visitors, Jeffers Petroglyphs, Comfrey, Minn.
Credit: Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

Two prairie paths at the Jeffers Petroglyphs site near Comfrey, Minnesota, allow visitors to view over 300 species of plants, including the extremely rare prairie bush clover. There also is abundant wildlife, including at least 30 species of birds, as well as bison rubs to view on the quartzite.

The site’s location is perfect for visitors looking for other outdoor activities, as it’s near public parks, including Red Rock Falls County Park and Higman’s Dam. The latter has volleyball courts, a waterfall and lake access. Petroglyphs can be found at any of the Red Rock Ridge sites, though the highest concentration of carvings is at the Jeffers site.

Tours at Jeffers Petroglyphs are fully accessible, allowing every visitor to experience the unique history.

“It gives you a different perspective of Native Americans in North America and what they were doing,” Briese said. “It’s more than the rock carvings because those rock carvings are connected to spiritual and scientific meanings. You’re not going to find another Native American rock carving site that has a tour experience we provide.”

For more information on Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site call 507-628-5591 or go to mnhs.org.

Article by Kristen Nichols