Saturday, May 17, 2014


I stumbled upon the petroglyphs at Washington's Horsethief Lake State Park purely by accident.  After spending most of the morning at nearby Dalles Mountain Ranch, I only stopped by this park to use the bathroom.  But upon spotting a sign for a "petroglyph area" I decided at the last minute to check it out.

Ancient writings

Turned out to be a great decision.

Rock etchings

I came upon a paved walkway lined with railings.  Beyond the railings, placed next to a basalt wall, were numerous rocks with ancient symbols etched in them.

Viewing area

These rocks were petroglyphs, images carved into a rock.  The rock's weathered surface had been scraped away, showing a lighter layer below.  This unweathered inner layer then made the design stand out from the outer surface.  Indian tribes who lived in this area long ago created these images, etching them into the basalt cliffs that lined the Columbia River.


After heeding the ominous rattlesnake warning sign, I cautiously made my way to the first group of petroglyphs.  They were amazing!  I clicked off a couple of shots (and gave thanks I'd brought a zoom lens) before moving on to the next set.

A gecko?

Some of the designs were intricate.  There were pictures of deer, bighorn sheep, what appeared to be a bird, and a few half animal/half human type creatures.  All very detailed.  These ancient people were good artists.

This one was my favorite

There were a couple dozen etched rocks in the formal display area.  Upon reading one of the interpretive signs, I learned that the nearby basalt cliffs held many more of these historic artworks.  However, the cliffs are closed to the public (probably to prevent theft and vandalism) and can only be accessed by guided tours. 

This one is called "Water Spirit"

Later internet research uncovered some interesting facts about these petroglyphs.  In very early times, vast numbers of Native peoples would come to this area during salmon migrations to fish, trade, and socialize.  The tribal groups believed that a connection with their environment and the spirit world existed within the nearby basalt rock walls. 

Looks like a deer

Archeologists have found more than 160 rock art sites in this lower portion of the Columbia River.  Some of the Northwest's oldest Native American artwork can be found in this park.

More fascinating drawings

The Lewis and Clark expedition camped at a Native village in this area, and described its wooden houses in one of their journals. 

Not sure what this one is supposed to be

The petroglyph rocks on display at this park were removed from the walls of the Gorge prior to the area being flooded by construction of the Dalles Dam.  They were stored within the dam for over 30 years.  This wonderful interpretive area came into being due to requests from the local Native American tribes.  Their perseverance brought the artwork out of hiding for all to enjoy.

This one is called "Speedis Owl"

I sure enjoyed viewing these interesting works of early Native American art.

You can barely make out the sheep etched in this rock

A wonderful discovery at an out-of-the-way, nondescript state park.  Good thing I had to use the restroom!

Steep cliffs along the river

But it was time to move on to the day's final destination.  I'd gathered some beta on a spectacular little-used trail that meandered above the town of Mosier.  Time to cross the river into Oregon and check it out!  Come back for my next post and see what I found.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot. and Our World Tuesday.


  1. I think finds like this are always best when you just happen upon them.

    Splendid pictures.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  2. Very interesting landscapes. I love the railroad curving into the distance. Those carvings are very interesting as well. I wonder what all those symbols meant once...

    Mersad Donko Photography

  3. What a truly fascinating find !

  4. Fascinating find with the lush green landscape.

  5. Hi,Linda. Very interesting post. I like various kind of history. They would make very artificial works. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Fun discovery. I love it when an unplanned find turns out to be so interesting to learn about as well as photogenic.

  7. It's so fun to stumble upon something so wonderful by accident! Great photos! I was suppose to go on a hike with two neighbors this morning. They didn't show. They either forgot or didn't go. I joined at the last minute so they may have forgotten me. lol! Have a happy Monday!

  8. That is awesome. I'd love to see something like that in person.

  9. Very, very interesting! I would love to see these in person, but wouldn't make it past the rattlesnake warning sign ;)
    Have a great week Linda! Looking forward to seeing your photos above Mosier.

  10. So glad you stopped ~ love petroglyphs and your photos are great for OWT ~ xoxo

    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

  11. I've never seen old carvings in America before. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Those are amazing. Everywhere is a rattlesnake area where I live!

  13. Looks like you had a fun trip. The photographs are amazing.

  14. What a fascinating place - great photos!

  15. The Lord works in mysterious ways to shot you where to go.
    Wonderful petroglyphs depicting the game and spirits of the region.

  16. I love this place! Petroglyphs fascinate me. I stood in the pouring rain admiring their beauty and mystery. You captured them wonderfully.
    Great post, Linda!

  17. I'm a big fan of petroglyphs. Wonderful images. Isn't it fun to come upon things unexpectedly?!!! They are usually the best.

  18. Sometimes best find is the one totally unexpected. I was in The Dalles long time ago and taking a walk along the Columbia river and I happen to come across the speedis owl on the rock. It was near the fishing site of the native indians. So cool....

  19. Really interesting post!! Boom, Bobbi and Gary.

  20. What awesome petroglyphs!

  21. Here is yet another place in the state I live that I have not yet visited. Those are so cool looking. I'll mark this down as a place to look up and visit.

  22. Blooms and petroglyphs all in one day? Fabulous! So glad they saved the rock wall portions when they built the dam, it's hard to find images in such great condition.


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