Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Horsethief Butte, Horsethief Lake, and Columbia Hills State Park, Washington"
Includes ... Horsethief Butte ... Horsethief Lake ... Horsethief Lake State Park ... Columbia Hills State Park ... Campsite of October 24, 1805 ... Campsite of April 19-20, 1806 ... Wishram Indian Village Site ... National Register of Historic Places ...
Image, 2011, Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake, click to enlarge
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Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake. View from Columbia Hills State Park (Horsethief Lake State Park). Image taken September 28, 2011.


Horsethief Butte ...
Horsethief Lake, Horsethief Butte, and Columbia Hills State Park (formerly Horsethief Lake State Park) are located on the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 194, two miles upstream of Spearfish Lake and three miles upstream of The Dalles Dam. The waters of Horsethief Lake are the result of flooding of the area from the rising Lake Celilo, the reservoir behind the dam. Upstream of the Horsethief area is Avery Park and Wishram, Washington. In the middle of the Columbia, just upstream of Horsethief Butte, is Browns Island, once a large outcrop which Captain Clark walked upon to observe the rapids of the "Short Narrows".

Columbia River Basalts and the Missoula Floods ...
The great floods of the last ice age carved the basalts of Horsethief Butte and the surrounding Columbia River channel, creating the features we see today. The basalts themselves were created thousands of years earlier when a series of lava flows emerged from cracks in the earth's crust and blanketed the entire eastern Washington and northern Oregon region. Horsethief Butte is made up of a series of lava flows, visible in the cliffs.

Image, 2004, Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
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Horsethief Butte, Washington, as seen from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken November 11, 2004.


Early Horsethief Lake ...
Horsethief Lake was created by flooding by the waters of Lake Celilo, the reservoir behind the The Dalles Dam. Early names for the area were"Caldwash Bottom", "Colowelsh Bottom", and "Colowesh Bottom". In 1959 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made the name "Horsethief Lake" official.

Real Horse Thiefs ??? ...
"Oral history states that the park received its former name -- Horsethief Lake State Park -- from workers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who developed the site. The workers thought the terrain was similar to that of horsethief hideouts in popular 1950s Hollywood westerns. The abundance of horses kept on the premises by local Indians apparently gave the workers their inspiration."

Source:   Washington State Parks website, 2006, Columbia Hills State Park

Image, 2011, Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Horsethief Butte, Washington. View from the south. Image taken September 28, 2011.


Lewis and Clark and Horsethief Butte ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of October 24, 1805 was in the Horsethief Butte area, at the head of the Fivemile Rapids ("Long Narrows"). On their return in April 1806 the men camped very near their 1805 camp, above the Long Narrows near the vicinity of today's Columbia Hills State Park.

Campsite of October 24, 1805 ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of October 24, 1805 was below Celilo Falls and the "Short Narrows" (Tenmile Rapids). The men had passed the rapids at Browns Island and set up camp at the head of the "Long Narrows" (Fivemile Rapids) in the Horsethief Butte/Horsethief Lake area.

"... proceeded down with the Canoes two at a time to a village of 20 wood housies in a Deep bend to the Stard. Side below which a rugid black rock about 20 feet hiter than the Common high fluds of the river with Several dry Chanels which appeared to Choke the river up quite across; this I took to be the 2d falls or the place the nativs above call timm, ...     I dispatched a Sufficent number of the good Swimers back for the 2 canoes above the last rapid and with 2 men walked down three miles to examine the river Over a bed of rocks, which the water at verry high fluds passes over ...     The evening being late I could not examine the river to my Satisfaction, the Chanel is narrow and compressed for about 2 miles, when it widens into a deep bason to the Stard. Side, & again contracts into a narrow chanel divided by a rock     I returned through a rockey open country infested with pole-cats to the village where I met with Capt. Lewis the two old Chiefs who accompanied us & the party & canoes who had all arrived Safe; the Canoes haveing taken in Some water at the last rapids. here we formed a Camp near the Village, ..." [Clark, October 24, 1805]

"We had a fine morning and proceeded on early, found the water very rapid below the falls; and having gone 4 miles below the narrows, came to other narrows still more confined and the rocks higher. At the head of these narrows we halted about 2 o'clock at a great Indian village, and remained there all night." [Gass, October 24, 1805]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was near Wishram, Washington, and their campsite of October 25, 1805, was across the river at Rock Fort.


Campsite of April 19-20, 1806 ...
Lewis and Clark's camp of April 19 and 20, 1806 was above the Long Narrows in the vicinity of today's Horsethief Lake State Park, and near their camp of October 24, 1805.

"... We deturmined to make the portage to the head of the long narrows with our baggage and 5 Small Canoes, the 2 large Canoes we Could take no further and therefore Cut them up for fuel. we had our Small Canoes drawn up very early and employed all hands in transporting our baggage on their backs and by means of 4 pack horses, over the portage. This labour we had accomplished by 3 P. M. and established our Camp a little above the present Skillute village which has been removed as before observed a fiew hundred yards lower down the river than when we passed it last fall. ..." [Clark, April 19, 1806]

"... This morning early we had our small canoes drawn out, and employed all hands in transporting our baggage on their backs and by means of the four pack horses, over the portage. This labour we had accomplished by 3 P. M. and established our camp a little above the present Skil-lute village which has been removed a few hundred yards lower down the river than when we passed them last fall ..." [Lewis, April 19, 1806]

"...a clear cold morning a little Snow fell on the hills last night. all hands went at packing the baggage past the portage which is about 2 miles towards evening we got all the baggag and canoes carried to the head of the narrows above the village & Camped carried our firewood past the portage also as it is so hard about the village that the Savages value it high. Capt. Clark bought 3 or 4 more horses this day. Capt. Clark and 3 men Set out this evening to go up to the Short narrows at a village in order to purchase horses untill our arival. ..." [Ordway, April 19, 1806]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was near the Big Eddy, today's Spearfish Lake area. Their campsite of April 21, 1806 was two miles upstream of Wishram, Washington, at the base of Haystack Butte.


National Register of Historic Places ...
For centuries, the area around Horsethief Butte was the site of a Native American village, now flooded by the waters of The Dalles Dam. In 1972 the "Wishram Indian Village Site", otherwise known as Horsethief Lake State Park, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The site (District #72001278) covers the Native Indian period 1000 to 1499 A.D.

Petroglyphs and Pictographs ...
In 1957 when The Dalles Dam was completed and the waters of Lake Celilo were rising, the U.S. Government removed a few ancient Indian petroglyphs from the walls of a canyon downstream of Celilo. This canyon carried the Indian name of "Tamani Pesh-Wa" or "Written on the Rock". Locals called it "Petroglyph Canyon". In 2003 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cleaned and restored the petroglyphs and moved them to the then-called Horsethief Lake State Park, now called Columbia Hills State Park. Today the collection of over 40 Petroglyphs and Pictographs is bordered by a paved trail for easy public viewing, and is less than a mile from the flooded Petroglyph Canyon. More petroglyphs and pictographs, including "Tsagaglalal" ("She Who Watches") can be seen nearby when guided walks are being led. The carvings and paintings are sacred to the local Native Americans but also open to the public "for the benefit of all people as a tribute to all living and non-living things".
[More]

Image, 2011, Petroglyph, Horsethief Lake Temani Pesh-wa Information Sign, click to enlarge
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Petroglyphs, Horsethief Lake Park (Columbia Hills State Park), Washington. Image taken September 28, 2011.
Image, 2005, Petroglyph, Horsethief Lake State Park, from the east, click to enlarge
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"River Spirit" Petroglyph, Horsethief Lake Park (Columbia Hills State Park), Washington. Image taken June 4, 2005.
Image, 2011, Pictograph, She Who Watches, click to enlarge
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"She Who Watches", Pictograph, Horsethief Lake Park (Columbia Hills State Park), Washington. Image taken October 15, 2011.


Horsethief Butte, etc.

  • Basalts near Horsethief Butte ...
  • Columbia Hills State Park ...
  • Creatures of the Wild ...
  • Stone House ...
  • Views of Mount Hood ...


Basalts near Horsethief Butte ...
The area of Horsethief Butte was created by the massive flows of the Columbia River Basalts and then carved into todays features by the Missoula Floods.

Image, 2011, Basalt near Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
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Washington State Highway 14 at Horsethief Butte, Washington. View from Columbia Hills State Park (Horsethief Lake State Park). Image taken September 28, 2011
Image, 2011, Basalts near Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
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Basalts at Horsethief Butte, Washington. View from Columbia Hills State Park (Horsethief Lake State Park) looking across Horsethief Lake. Image taken September 28, 2011
Image, 2011, Basalts near Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
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Basalts near Horsethief Butte, Washington. View from moving car, basalts across the road from Columbia Hills State Park (Horsethief Lake State Park). Image taken September 28, 2011


Columbia Hills State Park ...
(Horsethief Lake State Park) ...
In 2003, Horsethief Lake State Park merged with Dalles Mountain Ranch and became Columbia Hills State Park, a 3,338-acre camping park with 7,500 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Columbia River. Horsethief Butte dominates the skyline. Below Horsethief Butte is the 90-acre, 0.6-mile across, Horsethief Lake. Horsethief Lake is impounded by the waters of Lake Celilo, the reservoir behind the The Dalles Dam. Some of the oldest Native American pictographs in the Northwest are found within Columbia Hills State Park.

Image, 2005, Horsethief Lake State Park, from the east, click to enlarge
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Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington. View from Washington State Highway 14 Overlook. Image taken May 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Horsethief Butte, Horsethief Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
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Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake, Washington. Image taken June 4, 2005.
Image, 2005, Trees, Horsethief Lake State Park, click to enlarge
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Trees, Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington. Image taken June 4, 2005.


Creatures of the Wild ...
Scattered throughout Horsethief Lake State Park (now Columbia Hills State Park) are large wooden painted black cutouts of wild creatures. From information provided by the Columbia Hills State Park --- there are SEVEN cutout creatures ... 1) "Connie the Cougar" ... 2) "Oscar the Owl" ... 3) "Sam and Sally Squirrel" ... 4) "Ricky the Raccoon" ... 5) "Mr. & Mrs. Spruce Goose" ... 6) "Paula the Possum" ... and 7) "Wally the Bear". The cutouts are part of the park's "Junior Ranger" program.
[More]

Image, 2011, Horsethief Lake State Park, click to enlarge
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"Wally the Bear", Horsethief Lake State Park (Columbia Hills State Park). Image taken September 28, 2011.
Image, 2011, Horsethief Lake State Park, click to enlarge
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"Connie the Cougar", Horsethief Lake State Park (Columbia Hills State Park). Image taken September 28, 2011.


Stone House near Horsethief Butte ...
The 12x16-foot stone house located on the basalts across from Horsethief Butte was built about 1925 by Lawrence McNary, a railroad attorney, who grew up in the area. Lawrence McNary, cousin to U.S. Senator Charles McNary who was instrumental in building of the McNary Dam and the Umatilla Bridge, purchased 40 acres from the Native Americans who owned the property. McNary hired the Italian stone mason Joe Studenecker. McNary would take the train out from Portland, spending many relaxing weekends at the stone house.

Image, 2011, Stone House near Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
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Stone House near Horsethief Butte, Washington. View from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken September 28, 2011.
Image, 2011, Stone House near Horsethief Butte, Washington, click to enlarge
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Stone House near Horsethief Butte, Washington. View from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken September 28, 2011.


Views of Mount Hood ...
A fantastic view of Mount Hood, Oregon can be seen from the Washington State Highway 14 Overlook of Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake. Other views of Mount Hood and Horsethief Butte can be seen from turnouts on Washington State Highway 14, upstream of the park.

Image, 2005, Mount Hood from Horsethief Butte Overlook, click to enlarge
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Mount Hood, Oregon, from Horsethief Butte Overlook, Washington. View from Washington State Highway 14, at overlook of Horsethief Lake and Horsethief Butte. Image taken May 24, 2005.
Image, 2004, Mount Hood and Horsethief Butte, from the east, click to enlarge
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Columbia River looking west, with Mount Hood, Oregon, and Horsethief Butte, Washington. Downstream view of the Columbia River as seen from Washington State Highway-14, upstream of Horsethief Butte. Image taken April 24, 2004.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 24, 1805 ...
The first pitch of this falls [Celilo Falls] is 20 feet perpendicular, then passing thro' a narrow Chanel for 1 mile to a rapid of about 18 feet fall below which the water had no perceptable fall but verry rapid ...     It may be proper here to remark that from Some obstruction below, the cause of which we have not yet learned, the water in high fluds (which are in the Spring) rise <nearly> below these falls nearly to a leavel with the water above the falls; the marks of which can be plainly trac'd around the falls. at that Stage of the water the Salmon must pass up which abounds in Such great numbers above- below thos falls are Salmon trout and great numbers of the heads of a Species of trout Smaller than the Salmon. those fish they catch out of the Salmon Season, and are at this time in the act of burrying those which they had drid for winter food. ...    Capt Lewis and three men crossed the river and on the opposit Side to view the falls which he had not yet taken a full view of-     At 9 oClock a. m. I Set out with the party and proceeded on down a rapid Stream of about 400 yards wide at 2 1/2 miles the river widened ito a large bason to the Stard. Side on which there is five Lodges of Indians. here a tremendious <heigh> black rock Presented itself high and Steep appearing to choke up the river [the future Browns Island] nor could I See where the water passed further than the Current was drawn with great velocity to the Lard Side of this rock at which place I heard a great roreing. I landed at the Lodges and the natives went with me to the top of this rock which makes from the Stard. Side; from the top of which I could See the dificuelties we had to pass for Several miles below; at this place the water of this great river is compressed into a Chanel [the "Short Narrows" or Tenmile Rapids] between two rocks not exceeding forty five yards wide and continues for a 1/4 of a mile when it again widens to 200 yards and continues this width for about 2 miles when it is again intersepted by rocks. This obstruction in the river accounts for the water in high floods riseing to Such a hite at the last falls. The whole of the Current of this great river must at all Stages pass thro' this narrow chanel of 45 yards wide. as the portage of our canoes over this high rock would be impossible with our Strength, and the only danger in passing thro those narrows was the whorls and Swills arriseing from the Compression of the water, and which I thought (as also our principal watermen Peter Crusat) by good Stearing we could pass down Safe, accordingly I deturmined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut Swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction (which from the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it;[)] however we passed Safe to the astonishment of all the Inds: of the last Lodges who viewed us from the top of the rock [this high rock became Browns Island when the waters of Lake Celilo inundated the valley]. passed one Lodge below this rock and halted on the Stard. Side to view a verry bad place, the Current divided by 2 Islands of rocks the lower of them large and in the middle of the river, this place being verry bad I Sent by land all the men who could not Swim and Such articles as was most valuable to us Such as papers Guns & amunition, and proceeded down with the Canoes two at a time to a village of 20 wood housies in a Deep bend to the Stard. Side [area of Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake] below which a rugid black rock about <the> 20 feet hiter <of> than the Common high fluds of the river with Several dry Chanels which appeared to Choke the river up quite across; this I took to be the 2d falls or the place the nativs above call timm, The nativs of this village reived me verry kindly, one of whome envited me into his house, ...    I dispatched a Sufficent number of the good Swimers back for the 2 canoes above the last rapid and with 2 men walked down three miles to examine the river Over a bed of rocks, which the water at verry high fluds passes over, on those rocks I Saw Several large Scaffols on which the Indians dry fish; as this is out of Season the poles on which they dry those fish are tied up verry Securely in large bundles and put upon the Scaffolds, I counted 107 <Scaff> Stacks of dried pounded fish in different places on those rocks which must have contained 10,000 w. of neet fish, The evening being late I could not examine the river to my Satisfaction, the Chanel is narrow and compressed for about 2 miles [the "Long Narrows" or Fivemile Rapids], when it widens into a deep bason to the Stard. Side ["Big Eddy", today the location of Spearfish Lake], & again contracts into a narrow chanel divided by a rock [head of Threemile Rapids] I returned through a rockey open countrey infested with pole-cats to the village where I met with Capt. Lewis the two old Chiefs who accompanied us & the party & canoes who had all arrived Safe; the Canoes haveing taken in Some water at the last rapids. here we formed a Camp near the Village [near Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake] ...






Clark, April 19, 1806 ...
We deturmined to make the portage to the head of the long narrows [Fivemile Rapids, now under the waters of Lake Celilo] with our baggage and 5 Small Canoes, the 2 large Canoes we Could take no further and therefore Cut them up for fuel [at their camp near Spearfish Lake]. we had our Small Canoes drawn up very early and employed all hands in transporting our baggage on their backs and by means of 4 pack horses, over the portage. This labour we had accomplished by 3 P. M. and established our Camp a little above the present Skillute village [near Horsethief Butte] which has been removed as before observed a fiew hundred yards lower down the river than when we passed it last fall. I left Capt L. at the bason [Spearfish Lake] and proceeded to the village early this morning with a view to recive the horses which were promised to be brought this morning for articles laid by last evining. in the Course of this day I purchased four horses at the Village, and Capt Lewis one at the bason before he left it. after the baggage was all Safely landed above the portage, all hands brought over the Canoes at 2 lodes which was accomplished by 5 P. M. as we had not a Sufficiency of horses to transport our baggage <I do> we agreed that I should proceed on to the Enesher villages at the great falls of the Columbia [Celilo Falls] and if possible purchase as maney horses as would transport the baggage from that place, and rid us of the trouble and dificuelty of takeing our Canoes further. I set out with Serjt Pryor, Geo Shannon Peter Crusat & Labiech at half past 5 P. M. for the Enesher Village [vicinity of Wishram] at which place I arrived at 8 P. M. Several Showers of rain in the after part of to day, and the S W wind very high. there was great joy with the nativs last night in consequence of the arrival of the Salmon; one of those fish was cought, this was the harbenger of good news to them. They informed us that those fish would arive in great quantities in the Course of about 5 days. this fish was dressed and being divided into Small pieces was given to each Child in the village. this Custom is founded on a Supersticious opinion that it will hasten the arrival of the Salmon. ...    The long narrows [Fivemile Rapids] are much more formadable than they were when we decended them last fall, there would be no possibility of passing either up or down them in any vessel at this time.

I entered the largest house of the Eneeshers village [near Wishram] in which I found all the enhabitents in bead. they rose and made a light of Straw, they haveing no wood to burn. many men Collected. we Smoked and I informed them that I had come to purchase a fiew horses of them. they promused to Sell me Some in the morning.





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    Bleakney, Darlene, "Dalles Mountain Ranch", excerpted by A. Kallinen, Columbia Hills State Park Ranger, 2011; KATU website, 2005; National Register of Historic Places website, 2004, 2005; U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006; Washington State Parks and Recreation website, 2004.

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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September 2011