Go wild in Little Book Cliffs

Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is one of only three areas in the U.S. set aside specifically for wild horses or burros.

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Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is one of only three areas in the U.S. set aside specifically for wild horses or burros.

More than 33,000 wild horses and burros roam across ranges on federal lands in 10 Western states. But the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area just northeast of Grand Junction is unique in several respects.

First, Little Book Cliffs is one of only three areas in the United States set aside specifically for wild horses or burros.

Second, is its proximity to a sizeable metropolitan area. Visitors can access the wild horse range by driving just a few miles east on Interstate 70 to the Cameo exit in De Beque Canyon.

Then they must cross the bridge over the Colorado River, head west past the old power plant and drive about 1.5 miles down a dirt road to the parking area, which accommodates trucks and horse trailers, as well as passenger vehicles.

The dirt road crosses several gullies and washes, and it is often rutted. It is not suitable for low-clearance vehicles, and it may be impassable when wet.

But most of the time it is a relatively easy drive, and visitors have a choice of two routes into the wild horse area: Coal Canyon or Main Canyon and numerous side trails within them.

During winter, spring and fall, it’s not unusual to see wild horses in either canyon within a mile of the parking area.

It’s against the rules to harass or chase wild horses or to try to feed them. But one of the things that makes Little Book Cliffs unique is that the horses are accustomed to human visitors. They won’t run off at the first sight of people, and photo opportunities are often abundant.

The Cameo area provides access to mostly the lower-elevation portions of the Little Book Cliffs range, however. During the heat of the summer, the small bands of horses usually move to higher elevation.

To reach that region by vehicle (as opposed to a long hike or horseback ride), requires a bit more adventure and considerably longer driving time from Grand Junction. You must take Interstate 70 east to the De Beque exit, then follow these directions, from the BLM’s website:

“Cross over the Colorado River and stay on main road, take a left in to the town of De Beque (Fourth Street) stay on this road until you come to the gas station, take a left and follow the road all the way to the end. This is Second Street. Proceed to Winter Flats Road and turn right here. Travel approximately 20 miles. This will take you to a fork in the road, the right branch will take you to the North Soda area (the northern most point of the Wild Horse Area) and the left branch will take you into the Indian Park area. CAUTION: Winter Flats Road is a 4X4 road year round and usually impassable during winter months and in rainy conditions.”

One of the most unusual things about Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area is the spirit of cooperation that has long existed between the BLM officials who manage the range and a dedicated group of local wild horse lovers who assist the BLM with many of its activities.

For more than 30 years, the Friends of the Mustangs group has worked with the Grand Junction office of the BLM on range improvements, foal counts, fertility control and educating the public about wild horse adoptions. Last fall, Jim Dollerschell, rangeland management specialist for the BLM in Grand Junction, said of the Friends group: The “BLM is very proud of its relationship with Friends of the Mustangs. It’s a jewel of a relationship when it comes to wild horses on BLM lands.”

That special relationship has helped prevent the kind of controversy that resulted in protests and lawsuits over federal management of wild horses herds in other parts of Colorado and in other states.

Furthermore, the BLM in Grand Junction, with the assistance of Friends volunteers, has become a leader in fertility control of wild horse herds, thereby reducing the need for wild horse roundups and adoptions.

Between 80 and 120 wild horses in multiple bands range over the 36,000 acres of the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area.

If you would like to learn more about the area, its herd and its trails, visit the Grand Junction BLM office at 2815 H Road or go to its Little Book Cliffs website, http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/recreation/littlebookcliffwha.html.

To learn about Friends of the Mustangs, or for information on joining the group, go to http://www.friendsofthemustangs.org.

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