Natural Horse Corral Now Offers Senic View.

LOOKING SOUTH OVER THE COLORADO RIVER TO CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK. THE PREDOMINANT CLIFF AND CANYON TOPOGRAPHY OF THE REGION IS WELL ILLUSTRATED HERE, 05/1972Credit: Environmental Protection Agency. (12/02/1970 - )The name Dead Horse may conjure up old west images of a lonely cowboy stranded in a desert with buzzards circling overhead, but Dead Horse Point is a crown jewel among Utah’s State Parks system.

Over thousands of years, the Colorado River sliced down into the earth and all the while the surrounding land pushed the earth upward.  These opposing forces helped to form a mesa that rises 2,000 feet above a bend in the river.  This erosion process took over 150 million years.

Legend says that over 100 years ago, local cowboys used the mesa as a natural corral.  The cowboys herded wild mustangs onto the mesa through a tiny strip of land that connects it to the nearby cliffs.  The cowboys built a fence across the goose neck of the mesa to keep the horses in.  Then they culled the best of the herd and left the rest to find their own way out of the open fence and back into the wild, but other stories say that the remaining mustangs never found the open fence and died of thirst in sight of the Colorado River far below.

Today, Dead Horse State Park is a small park located near the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.  Dead Horse State Park covers a few square miles that include the mesa and surrounding area.  The road into the mesa passes through the narrow neck of land.  Visitors can camp, hike the rim trail located along the top of the mesa and see a visitor’s center that offers information about the park and the legend.

Although mountain bikers consider nearby Moab a sort of Mecca, bicycles are only allowed on marked paths in the park and there are no bike trails.

The park overlooks offer a 270 degree view of the Colorado River and nearby Canyonlands State Park.  Explorers can see the mesa from several viewpoints along jeep, hiking and biking trails within Canyonlands National Park.

Dead Horse State Park lies on State Road 313 18 miles off Highway 191 near Moab, Utah. The day use fee is $10 and camping fees are $20. Campers can make reservations online through Reserve America or by calling the Utah State Parks Reservation Call Center at 800-322-3770 toll free outside the Salt Lake City Area or 801-322-3770 inside Salt Lake City.