I have been asked on occasion where I photograph wild horses. Three of my favorite areas are in Wyoming and Montana. I choose these areas because of the terrain. There are also areas in Colorado and Nevada but I stick for the most part to Wyoming. The areas I'll be writing about are located in Rock Springs, Cody, and Lovell, Wyoming.
The first of these areas is North of Rock Springs. It is a 24 mile self -guided gravel road that ends in Green river, Wyoming. Its called the Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Tour. Along the way keep a lookout for pronghorn antelope, elk, deer, coyotes ,hawks, eagles and other wildlife. It generally takes about 1.5-2.0 hours to complete. I would make sure that I had a full tank of gas and a good spare tire before you begin. There are roads that off shoot (mostly tire tracks) the main road and I would recommend you have a high clearance vehicle if you decide to take one. Most of the time you will be able to spot the horses from the road. Make sure you have binoculars also for best viewing . Once you get to the end of the road you can take l-80 either East or West or return back over the gravel road to Rock Springs. If you don't want to take the gravel road you can stop at the Rock Springs Wild Horse holding facility just North of Rock Springs and tour the facility which is open year-round. (307) 352-0292)
The next area is close to Lovell, Wyoming in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area. This is the home of the Pryor Mountain Mustangs. The area starts in Wyoming and extends into Montana. It is also known for its scenic views and is the home also to a group of Bighorn Sheep. The Bighorn Canyon winds through the area and is very impressive.
The Pryor Mountain Mustangs were verified by DNA analysis to have descended from Colonial Spanish horses brought to the Americas by the Conquistadors in the 1500's. They also have the distinction of being the only mustang herd remaining in Montana. Most of the horses live on East Pryor Mountain, where they are relatively easy to find. The horses living on the range's desert lowlands can be seen along Highway 37 in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. Its well worth your time to stop in Lovell and visit the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center. They can tell you where the horses have last been seen and share information on the horses. Lovell is about 45-50 minutes North of Cody, Wyoming. We usually stay in Cody and if you haven't visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Center its a must.
The last area is the McCullough Peaks Horse Management Area. This area is managed by the BLM and consist of 109,814 acres of land. To view the wild horses, travel east from Cody on Highway 14-16-20 to mile marker 72 its about 18-20 miles from Cody. On the left you will see a gate and horses are often in this area. I usually have better luck going to mile marker 74 where you will see a kiosk and the Whistle Creek road sign on your left. You can manage some of these roads without 4WD but I would be careful of the offshoots. After a rain or snow I would not attempt to go into these areas. The red clay becomes as slick as ice and the chances of getting stranded are high. A couple of years ago it had rained hard during the night so I decided not to go out. Instead stayed in town and went to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Later we went into a couple of stores where I overheard a couple talking to the store manager. They were from Iowa and were driving a new Ford 250 4WD truck. They were new to the area had gone out into the Peaks in search of horses that morning. They drove down into a canyon area and got stuck. His wife had a heart condition and they couldn't get out. He had buried the truck up to the doors and tore up a section of the road trying to get out. He said he had to walk out of the canyon to get cell service. He dialed 911 and after explaining his situation the 911 operator said "How stupid was that." He had to get his wife out of the truck and climb to the top of the hill. A cowboy with a truck managed to get in far enough to pick them up. They had a meeting set up with the BLM and were killing time in the store until the meeting. The store manager told me they would be fined for the cost of repairing the road that could end up being in the thousands of dollars. I don't know how or when they ever got his truck out and I'm only telling you this so that you take me seriously about not going in when the roads are wet.
The topography is highly variable, ranging from mostly flat to slightly rolling foothills carved by drainages, to colorful badlands and desert mountains featuring steep slopes, cliffs and canyons. Its a beautiful area and provides some great backdrops for photography. The horses are in very good condition and tend to be moderate-to-large sized. They come in a diversity of coat colors to include bay ,brown, black, sorrel, chestnut, white, buckskin, gray, and palomino. If you don't want to go out on your own there is a person in town who will provide you with a tour. Go to the visitor center and they will give you the information.
There's nothing to compare seeing these wild mustangs running across the sage and hills. It truly gives you a feeling of being in the Wild West. I usually like to visit the areas in Spring when the foals are born or in the Fall. I've included in the post a few pictures of the mustangs and the areas they live in. I hope this answers some of the questions that I have received on photographing these majestic animals. If you need any other information please feel free to contact me.