COLUMBIA HILLS HISTORICAL STATE PARK
Columbia Hills State Park which includes the Horsethief Lake area and Dalles Mountain Ranch area is a 3,637-acre camping park with 7,500 feet of freshwater shoreline on the Columbia River. Horsethief Butte dominates the skyline. It stands over the lake like an ancient castle. The lake itself is about 90 acres in size and is actually an impoundment of the Columbia River. The lake was flooded into existence by the reservoir created by The Dalles Dam. Lupine and balsam root bloom in mid-April making spectacular fields of purple and gold. Rock climbing is possible in this park.
The Butte and the surrounding Columbia River channel were carved out of basalt rock by floods following the last ice age. For information on the floods, visit Sun Lakes State Park and the Dry Falls Interpretive Center.
The basalt rock resulted from a series of lava flows which emerged from cracks in the earth's crust and blanketed the entire eastern Washington/Oregon region long before the coming of ice-age floods.
When viewing the cliffs along the river, notice the stratigraphy highlighted by benches rising up the cliffs. Each of these benches, or layers, represents a different lava flow. Some lava flows were hundreds of feet thick in places.
The park contains Native American pictographs paintings and petroglyphs carvings. Some of the oldest pictographs in the Northwest are found in this park. Artifacts associated with local tribes can be seen at the nearby Maryhill Museum of Art and the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.
Archeological sites and artifacts are protected by both federal and state laws, and their disturbance and/or removal is illegal and carries severe penalties.
For centuries, the park was the site of a Native American village. The Lewis and Clark expedition camped at the village and described its wooden houses in one of their journals. The village was flooded by the waters of The Dalles Dam.
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.
The commission combined the park with Dalles Mountain Ranch and renamed the area Columbia Hills State Park in 2003.
A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to Washington state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page
The park has eight partial utility sites, four standard sites, six primitive tent sites, one dump station and one restroom. Maximum site length is 60 feet may have limited availability. In addition, there is one primitive hiker/bicycle camp site. Be aware that it can be very windy in the Columbia River Gorge, and be prepared for such conditions. All campsites are first-come, first-served.
More about park hours Check-in time is 230 p.m., and check-out time is 1 p.m.Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 630 a.m.Engine-driven electric generators may be operated only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.Length of stay You may stay up to ten consecutive days in any one park during the summer the stay limit is extended to 20 days between Oct. 1 and March 31.
Camping fees are Tent sites - $30 // Utility Sites - $35 // Tipi - $40 // Wall Tents - $50.