Petroglyphs & Pictograms

The area's early inhabitants painted and etched images on the cliffs lining the Columbia River Gorge

Experts estimate that people have inhabited the Columbia River Gorge for over 12,000 years.  The earliest settlers arrived long before European settlers and are thought to have migrated over the Asian land bridge from present-day Russia.  In time, descendents of these people became Native American tribes that we know today.


Early people left behind many interesting clues about their life here, including artwork that is engraved and painted on the rock cliffs of the Columbia River. 


Hidden amid the dry vegetation and rocky crags of the eastern Gorge, this rock art is easy to miss.  If you don't know where to look, you can easily pass a mark that has adorned the rock face for hundreds of years.


Throughout the region, two distinct marks adorn the rock:




Engravings or designs etched into rock with a tool such as a hard stone.



Designs painted on rock with a mixture of natural materials like berries, soil, ash or blood.


No one knows for sure what these petroglyphs and pictographs mean, but descendants of these early people insist that they are sacred.  Some say that the images may be tied to early religious practices, like a person’s quest to find his or her guardian spirit or a ritual to protect the tribe from harm.


Click the images below for a larger view of local petroglyphs: