HORSETHIEF LAKE STATE PARK
HORSETHIEF LAKE STATE PARK
Columbia Hills State Park (which includes the Horsethief Lake area and Dalles Mountain Ranch area) is a 3,338-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.
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.
Please note that the following general fee information is not customized for each individual park, so not all fees will apply to all parks (for example, primitive campsite and dump station fees listed apply only to parks that have primitive campsites and dump stations).An additional $1 per night is added to the basic camping fees listed below at this high-use park. Basic camping fees are:
Standard campsite, $15.
Utility campsite, $21.
Primitive campsite (accessible by motorized/non-motorized vehicles) and for water trail camping, $10
An additional $3 fee (standard) or $5 fee (utility) may be charged for select premium campsites at some parks.
Maximum eight people per campsite.
Second vehicle: $10 per night is charged for a second vehicle unless it is towed by a recreational vehicle. Extra vehicles must be parked in designated campsite or extra vehicle parking spaces.
Dump stations: Year-round dump station fees are $5 per use. If you are camping, this fee is included in your campsite fee.
More about park hours : Check-in time is 2:30 p.m., and check-out time is 1 p.m.Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.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. Campsite Information: The park has eight tent spaces, eight utility spaces, one dump station and one restroom. Maximum site length is 60 feet (may have limited availability). In addition, there are two primative hiker/bicycle camp sites. 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.
Watercraft launch reopens April 1.
The park has two boat ramps. Motorized boats are permitted on the lake, but the county has posted a speed limit of 5 m.p.h. for the entire lake.
A daily permit is available for watercraft launching, vehicle parking and trailer dumping at the park for $5.Annual permits also may be purchased at State Parks Headquarters in Olympia, at region offices, online, and at parks when staff is available.