Dean M. Chriss
River Devil Petroglyph, Columbia River Gorge, Washington

"This Is Not Kokopelli"

(Click image to enlarge)

The petroglyph shown here depicts a "river devil" or "river monster", a spirit living in the depths of the Columbia River that pulls people into the water and drowns them. Little else is known about the figure.

Prior to 1956 this ancient drawing was located among literally thousands of others on the walls of Petroglyph Canyon. Having religious significance, they were respected and honored by the First People to inhabit the Columbia River Gorge and its surrounding uplands. When the Dalles Dam was built, Petroglyph Canyon and its artifacts were lost forever to the rising waters. Only a few petroglyphs, including the one shown above, were cut from the basalt lava cliffs before they were submerged. The removed petroglyphs were stored at the dam, perched against a wall of the fish ladder beneath roosting birds, where they became covered with highly acidic droppings. They remained this way until they were cleaned and moved to Columbia Hills State Park in 2004. Here they are currently displayed outdoors near a basalt cliff similar to the one from which they were cut. At some point during all of the cutting, moving, storage, cleaning, and handling, this petroglyph cracked into two completely separate pieces. There is another crack along the top that threatens to separate the ancient artwork into three pieces. This piece ended up resting on its side with the separated parts roughly aligned

I had never seen a petroglyph even remotely similar to this one, and I had a desire to restore it more closely to its original state in an image. The result is shown above. The original photograph from which the image was made is shown below. The relatively simple restoration involved orienting the image vertically, carefully separating the upper part exactly along the line where it had cracked, and moving that part down and slightly to the right to precisely align the pieces and close the crack. At this point all that remained of the large crack was a very thin jagged line, and a depression from a small lost piece that has chipped off. The remnant of the crack was removed by cloning. The same method was used to fill the depression and the fine crack across the top, which is barely visible at the size shown here. Because the area above the large crack had moved downward and right relative to the bottom, the image was slightly cropped to "square up" the sides. Finally, the image contrast was enhanced and some minor work was also done to repair discoloration from weathering and contact with the white gravel on which the piece sits.

River Devil Petroglyph, Columbia River Gorge, Washington