The precipitous slopes of the gorge afford a sweeping view of the river, a railroad bridge, and Wishram. A short distance west are farmhouses surrounded by yellow poplars. Then, as the gorge widens, pasture lands come into view at various points alongside the road. Adjacent to a steeply terraced, brown, rocky cliff are velvety hills speckled with green trees. This park was once known as Horsethief Lake Park and Horsethief Lake once known as Caldwash Bottom. The Indian name for the canyon is Temani Pesh-wa, “written on the rock,” and it was created when construction of the Dalles Dam caused the waters of Lake Celilo to rise. In 1957, the U.S. Government saved some of the Indian petroglyphs—among the oldest in the Northwest—from rising water. In 2003–2004, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restored the artifacts and relocated them from the Dalles Dam to Columbia Hills State Park. Part of the collection is viewable by the public along a paved trail, while other parts, due to vandalism, can only be seen via guided tour.
Columbia Hills Historical State Park
Points of Interest
Wishram Indian Village Site
Now part of Columbia Hills Historical State Park, Lewis and Clark mentioned this site in 1805 and it was a major fishing and trading site. Although much archaeology was lost to the construction of the Dalles Dam, a significant number of artifacts and petroglyphs remain to tell the story of this gateway between the lush western and dry eastern sides of the Cascade Mountains.
Homesteads of the Dalles Mountain Ranch Historic District
Columbia Hills State Park now encompasses more than half of the former Crawford Ranch/Dalles Mountain Ranch. The 2,450 acres of this historic district include 14 historic buildings and various ruins, cemeteries and individual graves, and landscape remnants of early homesteading and ranching activities. The land tells the stories of two extended families—the Brunes and the Crawfords. The Henry Brune cabin represents the homesteading era (1880–1920 in Washington), while the Crawford Ranch evokes ranching culture. The 1905 John and Mary Crawford House still stands and the ranch, later renamed the Dalles Mountain Ranch, was donated to the state of Washington by its owner, Pat Bleakney, in 1993.