While the area isn't frequently mentioned as a bird watching hot spot, the fact is that Horsethief Lake and the Cascade Hills part of the park does get some bird life, especially in winter months.
The trees around the picnic area and camping area may have a number of birds in them, including golden crowned kinglets and flickers.
The water of Horsethief Lake itself tends to generate some insects, so there are swallows that you will find typically flying over the water catching them, especially on days with softer winds blowing.
Turkey vultures are also in the area, and you will certainly find them gliding past from time to time. Sometimes, they also perch on the rocks above the lake. You may also find ravens there.
Spring and fall migrants, and some wintering bird species, include a number of water birds on the lake. The shallower portion of the lake attracts dabblers including a pretty good sized group of wigeons. Further out in deeper water of the lake you will find a few divers, such as mergansers and scaups. In the colder winter months there are usually some bufflehead that show up as well.
Up the hill towards the Cascade Hills section of the park, and old ranch that is now part of the park, you will find that there are western meadowlarks on some of the fence posts, and the occasional black billed magpie kicking about in the canyons.
There really isn't too much to this location. It is literally a wide spot in the road - enough space for several vehicles at most. Slightly up the hill from the parking place there is a sign board indicating that this is in fact a state park facility, and there is a single picnic table. A small trail has been worn in the ground cover.
The site has been open to paragliding since before the place was a state park. The Cascade Paragliding Club worked with the owners of The Dalles Mountain Ranch for some time before they were willing to open it to Paragliding in April of 2000. Now that the land is a state park that policy continues.
In spring (late April and/or early May) the flowers here open up. They may not be quite as spectacular as those in other places but this is the Columbia Hills at the height of their decoration even so.
If you come here and choose to explore, keep in mind there are no established trails. However, damage to the surrounding delicate flowers and native grass lands can be minimized by following the footsteps of those that have come before. If you look closely, their mark may be found by looking at the locations where the grass doesn't grow quite as dense or the flowers grow much at all. Also, keep in mind there is no water or restrooms here, and very little privacy. There are also very few people, so if you get into trouble help is a long way away.
These animal sculptures can look very real from a distance, but it is also possible to notice that they never move.
These sculptures are of the local wildlife that appear from time to time in the park. At least one of them has a number.
I'm hoping that at some time in the future the numbers relate to a sign or map of the sculptures that explain a bit more about how these animals fit in with the local ecosystem.
The ones that I was able to find were located in trees scattered around the main day use picnic area near the campground. However, that does not rule out the possibility of there being others scattered elsewhere in the park. I've been told that there are (or were?) somewhere around 7 of these, and each has a name.