Wild Horses Captivate at Little Book Cliffs

The wild horse area north of Grand Junction is one of only three wild horse reserves in the country

Ask Marty Felix about any of the wild horses that run on the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area north of Grand Junction, Colorado, and she probably can tell you the horse's name, its lineage and where on the range it can be found at various times of the year.

Known as "The Wild Horse Lady" because of her long history working with the area's horses, Felix first set eyes on a band of wild horses in the Book Cliffs on March 18, 1973. "I was hooked just like that," she says. She's been at it since then.

Felix visits the range at least once a week as a volunteer for the federal agencies that manage the land and monitor the herd. She and other members of Friends of the Mustangs photograph the horses, help count horses and foals and assist in fertility-control so the herd doesn't outgrow the available forage in the 36,000-acre range.

Wild Horse Haven

Wild horses have lived for more than a century in the rugged maze of canyons, buttes, sage-dotted meadows and pinyon-juniper forests atop the Little Book Cliffs. Today, horse enthusiasts from around the country visit the Colorado range, one of only three U.S. reserves set aside for wild horses.

Other than a few water tanks for horses and some dirt roads and trails, the Little Book Cliffs range is largely undeveloped. Visitors are treated to marvelous silence, solitude, wide-open vistas and even a few geologic oddities. But of course the main attraction is the range's 124 horses, which Felix says tend to run in small bands of four or five.

Tips for Exploring Little Book Cliffs

Much of the range is accessible by foot and four-wheel-drive vehicle. Felix suggests Indian Park as the best place for viewing horses. It's accessible from the Winter Flats and Dry Fork roads, which begin near De Beque about 30 miles east of Grand Junction on Interstate 70. Another good access point is Coal Canyon Road, which begins at the Cameo exit from I-70 about 15 miles east of Grand Junction. (Note that Coal Canyon Road is closed from Dec. 1 to May 30 to protect foaling areas.) All routes require high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Summer days can be hot, and visitors to the remote area at any time of year should take plenty of water, food, clothing and supplies in case of unexpected storms or a vehicle breakdown. Felix discourages travel when rain is in the forecast.

The best viewing times are early morning and evening, according to Felix. "To see the horses, you have to look with your binoculars in the far, open fields," she says. "You might only get to see them from a distance. They're not going to be standing by the road."

For more information about visiting the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area, call the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at 970-244-3000 or visit the website. For more information about Colorado's wild horses, go to friendsofthemustangs.org.