The "Painted Rocks" of the Mohawk

Painted Rocks
In the late 1980s, State Museum research on the era of inland navigation that preceded the Erie Canal in New York revealed a number of accounts of what appears to be a unique feature along the Mohawk River navigation channel - the "Painted Rocks" near Amsterdam, in Montgomery County.

The most widely quoted description of this site is found in Jeptha R. Simms' book, The Frontiersmen of New York, published in Albany in 1882:

"Within the remembrance, possibly of some person still living, there was a large rock on the north shore of the Mohawk, near Amsterdam, to be seen at low watermark, that contained Indian Memorials, such as the figures of men and animals, and supposed by some to have been traced with red chalk, although they may have been in vermilion, which the Whites bartered with the Natives for peltry."

Other references to this feature were rare; lightly sprinkled in the traveler's journals examined by the Museum researchers. But for the most detailed documentation of this site we are indebted to Rufus Grider of Canajoharie. His paintings have preserved for us an image of what the Painted Rocks might have looked like when they could still be seen.

One goal of the Museum's research is to confirm the physical survival of significant features of this era of inland river navigation (1790-1820), including landmarks along the rivers that had special meaning for the boatmen. Therefore, an attempt was made in April of 1990 to document the Painted Rocks as an archeological site. This webpage has been created to present the findings of that effort.


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