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  • It was 104 degrees in places along the Columbia River Gorge that day; record-setting stickiness. It was too hot for the two mile hike we had planned, so on a whim we stopped to see the petroglyphs in a state park. Obviously, boating on a small lake was the main draw, but our interests centered on slabs of black basalt.

    The petroglyphs were once part of one of the largest groupings of Native American art in the northwest, information that brought sadness instead of awe. The original site is buried beneath the water behind The Dalles Dam, and hundreds of pieces have been lost forever. The basalt slabs in the state park were "rescued" from the canyon and kept in a warehouse for 30 years. Finally a confederation of several tribes and agencies arranged for the display at the park. Perhaps a dozen slabs sit in the dirt at the base of a small lava cliff, a natural setting, but they still seem like a bit of an after thought. A sign urges respect for the images, calling them sacred - respect ignored until a few years ago evidently.

    Complaints aside, we are pleased that some effort has finally been made. The area is tidy and well maintained with fences to protect this handful of orphaned petroglyphs. Some other nearby panels survive in place and are further protected by limiting access to guided tours - not conducted that day. We found many figures similar to ones scattered through our home state, but were delighted by several that seemed to reflect this very different setting.
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