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  • Red paintings of Devil’s Lake

    At Devil’s Lake Pass, near the Cascades Lakes Highway west of Mt. Bachelor, the traveler may discover significant central Oregon pictographs, red-ochre paintings, on boulders of an obsidian dome. As early as 1920, a writer offered her fanciful interpretation of these rock paintings in a vacation travel article in the Sunday Oregonian, referring to the “picture writing” as a “red warning” … a “dread message” to the Indian about the dangers of nearby waters. 

    One motif is probably the most recognized pictograph image south of the Columbia.  This motif (inverted) is illustrated in Cressman (1937), though he did not visit the site, which is on Forest Service lands in Deschutes County. The Lorings (1982) offer a good overview as site 81: Devils Lake Pass. It is disturbing the site has been badly vandalized at times – and also admirably restored. For example, a serious bright blue spray painting in the 1970s instilled doubt the images could be saved. A group of paintings was chiseled off and stolen in the late 1960s. 

    To view images:  Devils Lake    
    Examples of other rock paintings in central Oregon with apparent cultural affinities:
    Picture Gorge and Umpqua River.  

    Errata.
    - A fine summary of the geology is provided by Northwest Research Obsidian Studies Laboratory, which uses the most distinct and notable image as its logo.
    The only earth rock on the moon came from a volcanic dome near Devil’s Lake. In the mid-1960s, astronauts trained along the Cascade Lakes Highway in preparation for the Apollo missions to the moon. In 1971, Astronaut Jim Irwin of the Apollo 15 mission placed an earth rock from a volcanic dome near Devils Lake on the lunar surface. Cascade Lakes Highway

  • Cape Horn Pictographs Fading, yet Telling

    It is testimony to the patient observation and recording of the Lorings and of Woodward/Speciale in the 1970s that they were able to document a good sampling of the rock art at Cape Horn before it fades or erodes away. The pictographs are very faded, except for one that appears more recent with more thickly applied pigment. During a recent brief visit I found the rock art difficult to see well, or decipher, and many could not be found.  

    The stacked image below compares, from top:  an enhanced photo from a recent visit; the Lorings sketch (published 1982 as within Site 5); and Woodward/Speciale’s interpretative rendering (1982).  All the images are severely "displaced" for purposes of illustration and comparison - and to show the difficulty in seeing and documenting weathering rock art. And, by implication, the challenge of understanding the relationship of this site and its rock art within a regional context.

    The top image, dramatically enhanced (Aperture) and isolated for study purposes, is well above the high river mark on a basalt cliff face. It appears to be a shield figure, which would link it to the eastern Columbia Plateau; perhaps further south.  (I’ve seen a few similar petroglyphs in Owyhee Canyonlands.)  Woodward notes, “Unusual is the occurrence here of numerous elements that may be abstract representations of the vulva or shield motifs” (38).

    More photos:  Cape Horn, Columbia River

  • Paisley Caves Pictographs

    Paisley Caves Pictographs

    Dennis Jenkins and a site volunteer pointed out pictographs at Paisley Caves during a site visit, June 2009.  They have not been described or analyzed.  Though clearly much more recent than the human remains dated at 14,000 years BP*, the pictographs are of great interest, indicating habitation at the Summer Lake site spanning many millenia.  *Paisley Caves has yielded the oldest human remains (DNA in coprolites) in North Ameriica. For more about Paisley Caves, see article by Dennis Jenkins.

    Photo: Detail of one pictograph, a (faded) bi-sected circle encompassed by a larger circle. See Gallery in Index for more images.