pryor mountain wild mustangs

Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs

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After chasing waterfalls off Scenic Highway 14A  and exploring the amazing Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, I looped back to Lovell through the canyon on Highway 14, and spent one more night at the free city campground with showers.  Before leaving Lovell for Cody, I took one more hike and drive through Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in hopes to see the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs that I missed during my first visit.

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Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range

The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range was established in 1968 as the first wild horse range in the United States.  It was established to save the wild mustangs that were subject to being eradicated by the BLM. Currently the range encompasses 38,000 acres and overlaps Forest Service, National Park Service, and BLM Land in Wyoming and Montana. While most of the 170 Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs live in the highlands on East Pryor Mountain, some batches of the herd spend their time in the desert lowlands in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center

With the lowland desert of the Bighorn Canyon being the most accessible, I dropped into the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center to find out the best places to find them. The woman at the center promptly provided me with a map and an identification list of approximately 50 horses.

This list broke the herd into 11 bands each with one stallion and the mares, fillies, or colts that stayed with the stallion.  It also listed a few bachelor stallions and included the horses’ name, ID#, sex, color, markings, age, and probable parents.

I was surprised by the extensive research and knowledge of the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs.  I didn’t expect any of them to have a name or breeding background. It turns out, the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs are descendants of Spanish mustangs brought to the USA in the 1800’s.  They are known as the Colonial Spanish Horse or the Spanish Mustang and are a rare, endangered breed.

The map indicated the five most popular places for the lowland desert mustangs.  These are Layout Creek, Mustang Flats, Two Eagles Interpretive Trail, Devil Canyon Overlook, and Crooked Creek Bay

Wild Mustang Sightings

Armed with the map, list and recent sightings, I made my way into Bighorn Canyon with plans to hike Lower Layout Creek where the horses go for water.  My dog Annie and I spotted piles of dried horse manure and lots of hoof prints, but no horses.  While the hike was a bust, particularly because I didn’t find it terribly pretty either, I was lucky to find two different “bands” of horses in the Mustang Flats Area.

lower layout creek hike

Hidalgo, a Red Dun, and Hidatsa, a Grulio, both bachelor stallions were grazing in the lower section of Mustang Flats on the west side of the road on the way to our hike, so probably around 7 in the morning.

On our way back from our 3.4 hike along Lower Layout Creek, around 9:15am, Hickok and his harem (two mares and a filly) crossed the road right in front of VANgo!  The Red Bay, two Grulias, and a Dun grazed by the side of the road just south of the 45 degree parallel sign as I snapped photos.  They didn’t even care that I was there.

I really expected them to be skittish with scraggly coats.  Instead, the four were calm and fat with shiny coats.  They were small and compact with nice conformation too.  I felt like I could just walk up and pet one of them, but I didn’t try.  They are supposed to be treated as wild animals, which I might add eluded me in Bighorn Canyon.  I didn’t see the aggressive bear or the bighorn sheep. 

Wild Mustang Tour

But I’m pleased that I got to see the horses, especially with my horse being 1,300 miles away in her stall. I suppose had a I missed them, I could have spent time with the three in the corral at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center or signed up with the all-day tour offered by Pryor Wild.

The all-day tour begins at 9am and ends at 6pm, too long to leave Annie alone in VANgo, but it seems pretty cool and is very popular.  It was completely booked for the week I was in the area.  Guides drive visitors in a Jeep or Dodge PowerWagon for two hours over rugged terrain through picturesque scenery to reach the highlands where most of the herd lives.

The mustangs are usually easy to find, but sometimes require light hiking.  Once spotted, you sit and watch the horses as the guides explain any behavior taking place at the time.  That seems like a nice day to me!

Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center Objectives

Before I end, I know that the BLM wild horse round ups are controversial.  Opponents want the horses left alone and consider the roundup process cruel.  Proponents want to conserve a healthy range so that the mustangs can survive through the harsh winters.  They also want to control the breeding to ensure the family lines remain intact, given the Spanish Mustangs endangered status.

All I can address are the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center’s goals.  It was founded in 1998 and they advocate for the wild mustangs through research, monitoring, education, promotion, and operation. They work with the BLM to employ the best management practices and hope to become the foremost wild horse educational institution in the world. 

In all, my visit to the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs was fun, interesting, and informative. I’m glad I got to see them on this hot mid-July day! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

8 thoughts on “Pryor Mountain Wild Mustangs

    1. I just drove by another place in southwest WY that has wild horses (Rock Springs). It has been raining the whole drive, so I may return to this area next summer. I can’t enough of Wyoming. I love this state.

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