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  • Deborah Kade

Salt River wild horses Tonto National Forest, Arizona

Updated: Oct 14, 2019


Tonight, Michael and I decided to have dinner at Lakeshore Restaurant located on the banks of Saguaro Lake. On the way to the restaurant, we came upon a small herd of wild horses along the Bush Highway in the Tonto National Forest.


The hundreds of horses that live within the Tonto National Forest and roam along the banks of the Salt River are technically feral, as they’re the descendants of horses the Spanish re-introduced to North America during their conquests of the New World. However, as with most of the feral horses in the United States, they’re referred to as “wild.”

According to state records, the Salt River herd has been roaming the land freely since before the Tonto National Forest was designated in 1902. Though they’d been living on the land for at least a century, the horses’ fates were uncertain in the early 21st century. In 2015, the United States Forest Service issued a notice declaring the herd as “unauthorized livestock” and announced a plan to capture, remove, and auction off any unclaimed horses.

The apparent end of the Salt River horses spurred local advocates into action. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group was formed and successfully reached an agreement with the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Now, the nonprofit group manages the horses and attempts to control the population by darting the animals with a birth control vaccine.

When we drove to the restaurant, the herd was high on the hillside. I was happy to have my telephoto lens with me.



We had additional rain this week, so the wildflowers were still blooming.


As the light decreased, the poppies closed for the day.


Lupine along the Beeline Highway. From a distance, they gave the appearance of a brook running along the highway.


On the way back home, the herd was closer to the road. Many people stopped to take pictures.




I'm sure when you think of a "national forest", this is not the image that comes to mind.




Plenty of green grass to eat for now.




At least one horse kept an eye on the group of people taking pictures.






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