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Wild Horses

The vast, open terrain of Tooele County has been home to wild horses for generations. Their power and majesty can be observed while venturing into the county’s outback around the Onaqui and Cedar Mountain Herd Management Areas. The Bureau of Land Management oversees the HMAs, making sure that grazing areas are not overpopulated, or the horses are wrongfully taken. The BLM encourages visitors to see the horses, but it is illegal to chase or catch them because foals, pregnant mares and older horses can easily be hurt when pursued.

The horses are naturally wary and usually get spooked and run for cover when humans draw near. However, their wariness is known to diminish around BLM-maintained watering holes. The watering holes provide the greatest opportunity to observe their behavior, sometimes within only a few hundred yards.

The Cedar Mountain HMA is located approximately 35 miles west of Tooele City. The HMA extends from Hastings Pass southward to Dugway Proving Ground, and contains 179,584 acres of federal, state and privately owned lands. Wild horses have lived in the Cedar Mountains since the late 1800s. It is believed the Standard Horse and Mule Company, which provided remounts for the U.S. Army, controlled the original stock. However, according to the BLM, many of the horses on the Cedar Mountains are from descendants that were turned loose or escaped nearby ranches.

The dominant colors within the Cedar herd are bay and black, but other colors found are sorrel, red, and blue roan, buckskin, gray, palomino and pinto. The horses are average in size, with mares weighing 750 to 800 pounds and stallions weighing 850 to 1,000 pounds.

The Onaqui HMA is located 40 miles southwest of Tooele City. This HMA extends from Johnson’s Pass south to Lookout Pass. Wild horses can be seen on the bench and flat areas along the east and west side of the mountain range. The HMA contains 43,880 acres of federal, state and privately owned land.

In the Onaqui Mountains, wild horses have been around since the late 1800s. Most of the horses are descendants of horses that escaped from local ranches. The dominant colors are brown and bay. Other colors include sorrel, roan, buckskin, black and white.

How to get there: Cedar Mountains — Take I-80 25 miles west of Tooele City to Highway 196 (Exit 77). Travel south for approximately seven miles to Skull Valley Ranch. At the south end of the ranch, turn west at the BLM sign marked “Rydalch Pass-Eight Mile Spring.” Proceed west for about one mile to another BLM sign marked “Rydalch” and turn left. Travel 14 miles across Skull Valley to the Cedar Mountains. Horses can be viewed along the east or west side of the Cedars south to the Dugway Proving Ground fence and north to Hastings Pass. Be careful not to enter the military area without permission.Onaqui Mountains — From Tooele City take Highway 36 south for 16 miles through Stockton and into Rush Valley. Turn west onto Highway 199 and proceed over Johnson’s Pass to Terra and down into Skull Valley. Turn south at the BLM sign marked “Onaqui Mountains.” Horses may be viewed south along this road to Lookout Pass, the Pony Express Trail, and around Davis Mountain.

Notice to motorists: Moisture significantly influences road conditions in Tooele County’s outback. When wet, the roads are slick and muddy, or dusty during dry periods. Because of these conditions, the roads remain rough and should be traveled only by high-profile vehicles.

For more information about Tooele County’s HMAs, contact the Bureau of Land Management, Salt Lake Field Office at (801) 977-4300.