Photo: A pictograph on a cliff in Roscoe Inlet.
I stared up at the straight black cliff that towered above our boat in Roscoe Inlet. Large vertical cracks interrupted the smooth rock, providing footholds for scattered trees.
We were looking for pictographs, native rock paintings in red ochre. One is reported to be near this cliff. Black rock does not make good background for pictographs and I was about to suggest we move on when I saw a white triangle in the black rock. Was that a red shape in its center?
Steve saw it at the same time. "That's it," he said, looking through the binoculars at the white triangle.
Steve motored Osprey to the base of the black cliff. I could see a string of red dots, a couple of faces and several unidentifiable forms. A ledge below had provided a platform for the artists.
One of our goals for the summer is to find and photograph as many pictographs as we can. If we find enough well-preserved pictographs, we might be able to produce a book. Nineteen pictographs are reported in Roscoe Inlet in a list assembled by Doris Lundy in a 1970 Master's Thesis for Simon Fraser University . And although we couldn't expect to find all she listed, we knew from a past excursion into the Inlet we would find many. On this trip we saw a painted rockfish, a whale, several faces, several coppers (shield-shaped copper sheets used as a sign of wealth) and a number of just plain blobs and streaks that might have depicted something originally. No one really knows exactly who painted them, except that it was Native Canadians (or Alaskans farther north), or why. We also don't know how old they are although some are estimated to be several hundred years old. Some can be aged by the objects they depict: square rigged ships and stagecoaches. None of the Roscoe Inlet pictographs we saw had such objects.
Roscoe Inlet winds its way into the interior for 21 miles. The Waggoner Cruising Guide describes the Inlet as "drop dead beautiful," which may explain why so many people go up there and never notice the pictographs. Domes, bowls, river valleys, sheer cliffs, and green forests of hemlock, spruce and cedar kept diverting my attention. Around every bend there might or might not be pictographs but there would definitely be dramatic scenery. We spent a day and a half there, anchoring at Boukind Bay the first night, Clatse Bay at the Inelt's entrance the second. Very little wind makes its way to the inlet head. When we reached the end of the inlet, we turned off the engine and drifted in the deep water, enjoying the scenery while we ate lunch.
If you go, don't just look at the scenery. Look close for the art.
Photo: Roscoe Inlet scenery.