Salt River Wild Horse Update Spring 2020

By Sara Goodnick

Salt River Wild Horse Update Spring 2020

The Salt River Wild Horses have become very popular subjects for photographers. There have been some changes regarding where to find them since the spring of 2019.

Her New Little Sister

The herd that used to occupy the Butcher Jones Recreation Area has been relocated across the Bush Highway to be in the same general area as the other herds. This was done because the horses had become accustomed to spending time among the picnic tables, on the beach and in the water among the many human visitors. It was becoming a danger to all, hence the move.

The Tripod Pose

As this is being written, because of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, the improved recreation areas in the Tonto National forest have all been closed. Most of these areas have been popular locations for finding the horses and photographing them, but they can also be found outside of these areas if one is willing to do some hiking and scouting, as well as parking along the road.

When the Recreation Areas reopen here is where I recommend searching for them:


Phon D. Sutton

Coon Bluff

Blue Point

Water Users

They may be reached from Arizona State Highway 87, exit for the Bush Highway, north of Fountain Hills, Usery Pass Road from U.S. 60 or Apache Junction, Power Road from Mesa, or Forest Road 204.

It’s a Secret

Unless you have an America the Beautiful Annual or Lifetime Interagency Pass for our National Forests and Parks, you will need to purchase a Tonto Recreation Pass to park in these areas. There are signs posted along the roads in the Lower Salt River area advising where to purchase them. You can also find the information by clicking here. In addition, the America the Beautiful Interagency passes are only valid in picnic areas of Tonto National forest, as well as all of the other national forests.

Horse Wrestling

For your safety and that of the horses, please understand that these horses are accustomed to humans and will allow you to get within a certain distance before fleeing or attacking. Use a long lens, at least a 70-200mm or longer, and do not get too close. I’ve had horses most of my life and have spent plenty of time studying them. They can be very quick to strike with their front feet and kick with their hind feet which are like sledgehammers and can kill you. They can also remove parts of your body with their teeth. If they start tussling with each other they can run you down because they don’t even see you or care. If you get hurt by one of them it will have to be destroyed, so keep a safe distance and watch their body language. Ears forward looking at you might mean curiosity but can change in a heartbeat. Back off and don’t stare at them. Flattened ears mean what it looks like-mad horse. Beat a hasty retreat. Be especially careful with mares and their babies, as well as young stallions.

Now, take that long lens, maybe a monopod but not usually a tripod, keep your distance, and enjoy the beauty of these wonderful creatures.

Silly Youngster

Sara Goodnick is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.