Salt River Wild Horses

Dori Wittrig December 21, 2020

The Salt River wild horses are historic and majestic creatures that are the pride of our state, a favorite subject of photographers, and the icon of the wild, free spirit of Arizona and the American West.
Records indicate that missionary Father Eusebio Keno journeyed to the area in the 1680s and established missions and stockyards. He left hundreds of horses and cattle at each mission. By the 1800s, settlers and explorers reported large herds of wild horses roaming the planes.
The Spanish word mustengo means “ownerless beast”. Once the original mustangs escaped confinement, they evolved without human influence to become the durable and tough breed we know today.
For over one hundred years, wild horses across America have faced threats of mass extermination. When local photographer Billy Ristuccia took his first photo of the Salt River wild horses, it led him to research them.
“I found a Forest Service notice that announced their intent to round them up to remove them from their natural home. I posted my photo with the notice online which sparked the entire effort to get legislation to protect them.”
In May 2016, Governor Ducey signed the Salt River Wild Horse Act into law. The act establishes a management structure to provide humane management for the horses who reside in the Tonto National Forest. The management responsibility has been given to the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.
Seeing the horses is an amazing experience. Some great places you can visit to catch a glimpse of them include Saguaro Lake, kayaking or tubing along the Salt River, Butcher Jones Recreation Site, Phon D Sutton Recreation Site, Granite Reef, and Coon Bluff.
For more information about this Arizona treasure, visit
PHOTO CREDIT: Billy Ristuccia

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