Last year I missed Columbia Hills State Park because I tried to make the loop in two days and was running too late to stop. Later when I read online that the park had a collection of petroglyphs, I was quite disappointed. In fact, the park is one of the reasons I decided to make this a three day trip and stay overnight near Vancouver.

This sign, posted at the beginning of the trail provided an interesting introduction to the site.


Unfortunately this nearby sign posted in front of a gated trail is probably self-explanatory, too.

Trail Closed Sign

The English teacher in me wonders who wrote this message and what did they mean by it. Does it mean that there are tours ever Friday and Saturday at 10:00 am, or does it mean that you have to make a reservation to tour it at those times? If by reservation, why only at those times?

Luckily, a considerable number of the petroglyphs are on display next to the parking lot behind a short railing. If you are as fascinated by petroglyphs as I am, you would undoubtably enjoy the display. Here are three petroglyphs that photographed well.

Elk Petroglyph

It’s been far too long since I last studied symbols like this, but the stag certainly seems present in many early cultures.

Circlot’s A Dictionary of Symbols says, “The stag, in several cultures of Asia and pre-Columbian America, came to be thought of as a symbol of regeneration because of the way the antlers are renewed.” The Secret Language of Symbols says, “Shamans have often been depicted dressed as stages, indicating the creature’s role as a symbol of wisdom.”

While it’s obvious that the animals at the top of this petroglyph are Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, the most interesting symbol to me is the one at the bottom of the rock:


If I didn’t know better, I’d say it represented the devil, horns and all. Of course, it could also represent Pan, but one can only wonder what it means in connection with the sheep.

When I saw this petroglyph

Owl Petroglyph

I assumed it was an owl, right? Do you think it represented wisdom as it so often does in our society?

Sad to think that thousands of these drawings are covered by the backwaters of a dam.

4 thoughts on “Petroglyphs”

  1. hi loren, i too am fascinated by petroglyphs. we live about thirty miles from a major petroglyph site that was created by the ojibway people. it is now protected from the elements. to see them google “peterborough petroglyphs”. they are truly amazing – there are over 900 of them intact. the elders at curve lake reserve maintain the sacred nature of them. lovely posting loren and sad that so much has been lost to dams. so much. steven

  2. Ah, my favourite subject! These are great photos. I’ve heard of the Columbia River petroglyphs, but did not realize how very many have been lost. What a terrible cultural loss.

  3. I’d love to see them, Steve, but that’s a long, long ways away and I doubt I’ll be going that far before covering large parts of America I still haven’t seen, particularly the Southwest.

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