Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

She Who Watches Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

She Who Watches (Tsagaglalal), Horsethief Lake (bobcat)
Horsethief Butte from the day-use area, Horsethief Lake (bobcat)
Petroglyphs (Temani Pesh-wa), Horsethief Lake (bobcat)
River monster, Tsagaglalal Trail, Horsethief Lake (bobcat)
Pictograph complex, Tsagaglalal Trail, Horsethief Lake (bobcat)
  • Start point: Temani Pesh-wa TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Tsagaglalal (She Who Watches)
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 0.6 miles round trip
  • High point: 240 feet
  • Elevation gain: 45 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: Year round
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: Group tour


Hike Description

The Horsethief Lake section of the Columbia Hills State Park contains a unique set of cultural artifacts: a collection of pictographs and petroglyphs, some depicted on the native rimrock here and others rescued from the rising waters behind The Dalles and John Day Dams and eventually displayed on Temani Pesh-wa, the Walk of the Petroglyphs. The latter group is essentially an outdoor museum and can be viewed any time the park is open. The depictions on the park's rimrock, most notably the distinctive Tsagaglalal - or She Who Watches - pictograph/petroglyph, can only be reached by guided tour. These are conducted by knowledgable park guides from April to October on Fridays and Saturdays beginning at 10:00 a.m. Reservations need to be made by calling 509 439-9032. The tour is free, but you need a day pass or annual Discover Pass to park here.

Twenty-five people are allowed on the tour. Entry is not permitted unless on a tour; there is a $100,000 fine or five years in jail for trespassing if you want to try it: there’s a security camera keeping watch on everyone's moves. Some of the 75 petroglyphs and pictographs here were vandalized in 1992 and the area has been closed to general public entry since then. In pre-settler times, this site was a big trading emporium on the Narrows of the Columbia River and holds special significance for the Chinook, Warm Springs, Yakima, Umatilla, and Nez Perce (Because of The Dalles Dam, which was completed in 1957, the river is now four times wider than it used to be). A number of petroglyphs and pictographs were rescued from places below the current shoreline but even more - an estimated 900 or so - were submerged.

You will be conducted to five stops along the rim. Keep to the trail as both poison oak and ticks abound in the area; this is also rattlesnake country. First, there are some white and red pictographs. At Stop #2, you'll see seven more finger paintings. At #3, there's an owl-like creature with a jagged white and red streak coming out of its head, said to be a "river monster" (for this one binoculars will help make out the detail). Stop #4 is at a "collage" of 45 pictographs. Last but not least, Stop #5 comes before the spectacular Tsagaglalal: She Who Watches, a sophisticated petroglyph and pictograph. (It is painted with red ochre.) She Who Watches was the female chief of a local tribe. She was quizzed by Coyote about her ability to take care of her people and, because she proved so capable, Coyote turned her to stone so she could keep watch forever. As your guide might tell you, all of these pictographs are open to interpretation, and the original purpose of the rock art could have ranged from playful doodlings to serious symbolism.

Your tour guides will also point out various vandalisms, including the bullet scars in Tsagaglalal. The series of pictographs seen on the hike may be 350 years old, but they have not been carbon dated. A low stone wall along the trail is actually a hunters' wall: Native Americans would construct a very low wall and lie in wait as other members of the tribe drove deer down towards it; even though the wall was a negligible obstacle for the deer, they would rather run down it than leap over it and thus run within range of a hidden hunter's spear or arrow.

After the guided tour, explore the grassy area near the railroad tracks for wildflowers; there is also a warren of marmots here. Walk the leafy lawns at the park's lovely picnic area. You can also hike a short trail along the shore of Horsethief Lake. If you have time, there are two longer hikes in the park: the Horsethief Butte Hike and the Dalles Mountain Ranch Loop Hike.


Regulations, facilities, etc

  • No pets on Pictograph Trail
  • Discover Pass required
  • Park open 6:30 a.m. to dusk, April through October
  • She Who Watches by reserved tour only: 509 439-9032 (Fridays and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. April through October)
  • Unauthorized entry to She Who Watches: $100,000 fine or five years in jail
  • At Horsethief Lake: restrooms, picnic area, campground
  • Horsethief Lake section of the park closed November through March

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • 70 Virtual Hikes of the Columbia River Gorge by Northwest Hiker

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.