The Dead Horses of Dead Horse Point

Dead Juniper at Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point, just north of Moab and Arches, is one of my favorite places on Earth. This was the very first place I ever took a desert hike and whenever I’m in Canyon Country, it always calls me back, even on overcast days.

Overcast days often make for awesome evening light!

Dead Horse Point State Park is a spectacular place with a morbid name. In the visitor center gift shop this past weekend (searching for a sticker for my souvenir sticker tote and a few postcards) I overheard a little girl crying and her mom asking the park ranger for help: she was worried about seeing dead horses at Dead Horse Point.

The park ranger explained the dead horses are long gone. Back in the 19th century cowboys used the thin, prominent point as a natural corral, herding mustangs out to the tip and building a fence across the bottleneck of the point. Then they could pick and choose the best horses from the bunch and let the others go.

Old fence across the narrowest part of the point

As the story goes, once the cowboys forgot to open the gate and the remaining horses all died of thirst out on the point, within view of the Colorado River below, trapped by precipitous cliffs. Sounds like a tourism ruse to me. But then the park ranger mentioned another Mormon pioneer namesake unknown to me: a white rock formation off the tip of the point that resembles a dead horse laying on its side. This I had to see.

You can drive all the way out the edge of Dead Horse Point, but why drive when the walk is among the most spectacular in the Southwest. The 3-mile Rim Trail skirts the edge of the point, overlooking the meandering Colorado River, Canyonlands, LaSal Mountains, and on a clear day, most of Southeast Utah, making for one of my all time favorite hikes.

Dry water pockets on the edge of Dead Horse Point

I passed a few people along the short paved nature trail by the visitor center, but then had the sandy, slickrock trail to myself all the way out to the drive up overlook. It never ceases to amaze me how closely people stick to their cars!

Dead Horse Point D.O.G. All of the state parks I've visited in Utah are dog friendly.

Sure enough, at the very end of the point, lying along the banks of the mighty Colorado River far below, was a white horse! Always nice to learn something new about one of my favorite places. 🙂

See the white horse?

How about now?

Click here for more photos of Dead Horse Point! 

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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14 Responses to The Dead Horses of Dead Horse Point

  1. Kyle says:

    I’m also amazed by “how closely people stick to their cars!”

  2. seekraz says:

    Very nice post…beautiful photos…and nice bit of local history, too. I’m envious of your rootless journey, Mary…what a treasure of a life you have. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us.

  3. gaucho8782 says:

    How many pairs of Asolos do you go through in a year?! ….lol

    • Haha funny you should ask- I just bought a new pair of Salomon trail running shoes yesterday! The Asolos last a couple of seasons at least (love them!) but I wear out the trail runners every 4 to 6 months. It’s getting expensive!

  4. Being Medium says:

    thank you so much for sharing… your photos are just a delight to sit and look thru, and your story is great!

  5. dlh0205 says:

    The dead juniper at Dead Horse Point looks like the view from a scene of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Does anyone know if this is true?

  6. altshep says:

    These pictures are amazing! Really enjoy your blog (:


  7. heidi says:

    beautiful. thank you

  8. Noel Tendick says:

    Man I love and miss that country. Thanks for the travelogue of great shots.

  9. Bobbi says:

    Your photos are breathtaking! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Hamdi Çatal says:

    Nice photos
    I want to see it. 🙂

  11. Debra says:

    All of these shots, but especially the first, are beautiful

  12. triptracker says:

    We looked Dead Horse when we visited a couple of years ago. It was small and so much more personal. You have some wonderful shots here with some fantastic perspectives.

  13. Pingback: Not All Blogs That Wander Are Lost | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

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