Bear Gulch Pictographs

Note: This page is provided as an informational source and link to our good friends at Bear Gulch Pictographs near Lewistown, Montana.

Bear Gulch Canyon - Montana

     The Bear Gulch pictograph site was painted on the Bear Gulch Limestone formation, from the (Mississippian of Montana) period. There are just under 3,000 pictographs on the cliff walls at Bear Gulch. Of these, there are over 1000 images of shield bearing warriors.

Macie Ahlgren

     Macie Ahlgren, site-manager and matriarch of the family owning the site, has worked closely with anthropologists and academics over the years. In 1999, Casper, Wyoming, based archaeologists John and Mavis Greer came for a visit and ended up working closely with Macie through the years.


     In the early 2000s they teamed with James D. Keyser, who was able to secure funding and personnel for a comprehensive recording and analysis of the images, the results of which were reported in the book Fraternity of War: Plains Indian Rock Art at Bear Gulch and Atherton Canyon, Montana.

Paula and Macie at Bear Gulch

     The oldest paintings at Bear Gulch predate the introduction of the bow and arrow to the region at about A.D. 500, and are believed to have been painted more than 1,500 years ago. However, most of the pictographs date between A.D. 1000-1850. The site was likely visited by several different tribes through the years with the Crow and Blackfeet leaving many of the latest images.

     Although shield-bearing warrior depictions were common in the rock art throughout the Northernwest Plains, there are more recorded at Bear Gulch than at all other rock art sites in the region combined. The many shield designs help identify the tribal affiliation of some of their painters and most of the power sources brought to the warriors who owned them.

     The Bear Gulch Pictograph site was opened to the public by the Ahlgren family in 2000. Tours originate from their ranch headquarters south of Forest Grove, easily accessed from Lewistown, a charming community located in the geographic center of the state and one of Montana’s best kept secrets.

Click Button above to visit Bear Gulch site

Copies of Bear Gulch Images

Our special thanks to Dr. Mavis Greer for her technical assistance with information for this page.