WHERE TO FIND THE WILD HORSES OF SHANNON COUNTY, MISSOURI
FREE RESOURCE GUIDE BY TIM LAYTON
In my step-by-step guide below, I provide you with the latest and up to date information on where to find the wild horses in Missouri. I follow the horses full time and so the information I provide is detailed and always up to date.
The horses roam freely through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways near Eminence, Missouri in Shannon County. The landscape can be rugged and difficult at times, so I provide you with detailed information so you can have a safe and enjoyable experience.
I've included the four easiest locations for you in order to help increase your chances of seeing the horses.
Considering that wild horses of today are here because of humans, and considering the monumental positive impact horses played in American history, don’t they deserve a conscientious, kind management plan – not one that traumatizes them?
I think once you see the wild horses in person, you will enjoy a lifelong relationship with them that will hold a special place in your heart.
I know that people protect what they love and in our increasingly busy and technology-driven world, it would be easy for these wild horses to be pushed to the background and forgotten.
By conserving and protecting natural resources and wildlife, we are promoting biodiversity, and it is this biodiversity that directly contributes to the sustainability of all life on the planet. Everything is connected.
I am photographing and telling the story of the wild horses so they won't be forgotten or pushed to the background in our busy world.
Read the detailed directions and notes below for all of the wild horse locations.
PLAN AHEAD FOR SUCCESS
Mobile phone service is non-existent in several places and limited in many. I have found U.S. Cellular to have the best coverage of any of the carries with AT&T second best and Verizon being the worst. Keep this in mind when planning your visit and come prepared with printed maps and information. If you plan to visit some of the more remote areas, let family and friends know your plans because some of the areas can include high water creek crossings and difficult terrain.
You will want to wear boots, and I recommend tall boots like "mudders" that come up to your knee. I frequently find myself in places that I never planned on going because you never really know where your visit will take you when following the horses. You can expected to be in muddy fields, cross creeks, and be in grass up to your waist or even higher depending on the season. The grasses in the morning can be wet and soak your shoes and pants, so by having on boots, you will keep your feet dry. In addition to my "mudders", I keep a pair of hip and chest waders with me because I am in the water more than I ever plan. I also keep a backpack with me at all times where I keep my water, snacks, bug spray, sweat rag, and some basic first aid materials.
If bugs, ticks, and things like this bother you, then you will probably have a difficult time in the field. Depending on the season and the exact location, bugs/flies/mosquitos can be quite annoying. I like the early mornings versus the late evenings because the bugs tend to be much less bothersome at this time.
I always keep bug spray with me at all times in my pack, and I also have a face net that I wear during times when the flies are especially bad near the rivers. I tend to wear light-colored pants so I can see if ticks are crawling on me and I also wear long sleeves at all times to cut down on the chance of getting chigger bites, etc. Another tip is to go directly to the shower when you get back home or to your lodging because this will cut down on chigger bites and ticks, etc.
Bring a folding chair, some snacks, and plenty of water with you because you never really know where your adventure may take you. You may think you are only stopping for a quick visit, then you find yourself there for hours...
Also, if you visit one of the locations like Shawnee or Broadfoot and don't see the horses in the field, this doesn't mean they are not there. A lot of time they are in the woods near the fields or down by the river.
If you are fortunate enough to find one of the herds, you may have to stay a while in order to get to see the good stuff. Be prepared to spend a few hours at a location, especially if they are grazing.
If you are a photographer, you will want to bring your longer telephoto lenses because you won't likely get very close to them. Even if one of the more friendlier herds like the Shawnee Creek group will come up to you out of curiosity, you should never pet or feed the horses. These horses are wild, and they are unpredictable. You could be seriously injured and this is also not good for the horses. They are beautiful and a joy to see, but for your safety and theirs, resist the temptation of petting or feeding the wild horses.
The best times to see the horses are first thing in the morning and in the evenings a little before the sun goes down. The national park service and the Missouri Wild Horse league plant some vegetation fields in key areas around the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Shannon County to help provide a reliable food source for the horses which also helps keep them from wandering too far off into undesirable areas and the busy roads.
I want you to have a fun and enjoyable time and if there is anything I can do to help, just contact me and let me know.
BE NICE & RESPECTFUL PLEASE
Please don't throw your trash (e.g., water bottles, food wrappers, etc.) in the area. I pick up trash from visitors on just about every time I am in the field, and I just don't understand how anyone can think it is okay to trash such a beautiful place. Please don't be that person.
Never feed the horses because this will harm them and make them dependent on people versus continuing to survive on their own as they have for nearly 100 years. They've survived a long time before you arrived and they will continue to do so after you leave.
If you are a smoker, please try and refrain from smoking during your visit because this can be a fire hazard and also will lessen your chances of seeing the horses because they can smell the smoke from miles away.
Never pet the wild horses, even if one unexpectedly gets close to you. If this happens, slowly walk away from the horses at an angle and don't look them in the eye because you can appear to be a predator to them and you can't predict how they may respond.
WHERE TO FIND THE WILD HORSES OF MISSOURI - A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
There are four herds, and they are named based on their general locations (Shawnee Creek, Broadfoot, Round Spring, Rocky Creek). I will provide some helpful information for you on each of the four herds in the sections below.
Keep in mind; some herds are easier to find and see than others. For example, the Rocky Creek herd is very elusive, and the terrain can be very difficult and often dangerous, so you will probably want to start with some easier locations like Shawnee Creek or Round Springs.
In each of the sections below, I provide a difficulty rating to help you gauge how difficult it is to find the location and the wild horses. The frequency rating is an indication of how likely it is that you will see the horses at this location. And, I provide directions and a quick tip for each of the locations as well.
SHAWNEE CREEK HERD
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Tips: Great location for first-time visitors, kids, and elderly.
Directions: Located off of Highway 106 and County Road 106-211. From Eminence on Highway 19, go east on Highway 106 for 2.9 miles until you see a sign for Shawnee Creek Campground. You will turn left at the gravel road (106-211) and follow for 1.7 miles until you see the campground and the river. No special vehicle is required to access this location.
Tips & Helpful Information: There are a series of fields near the campground area that border the river where the horses frequently graze, so your chances of seeing them are pretty good, especially in the early morning and late evenings. This location is a good choice for older people and kids too. It is pretty flat and easily accessible. In the summertime, the grasses can be very high, so I suggest wearing pants and a long-sleeve shirt to minimize the chigger bites.
Depending on the day and time, you should expect to do a fair amount of walking. There are a few first-come-first-served camping spots along with public restroom facilities (no running water) that you may want to take advantage of. Keep in mind if the river is high, this location can flood.
There are a few parking spots right at the opening to the fields where you can park and start your walk. You are not allowed to drive in any of the fields with any type of motorized vehicle, only on foot. If you don't see the horses in the field, walk down to the left towards the river and follow that along to the woods. You will have to explore this area along the river bank as well as the interior of the woods at times in order to find the horses. I've seen the horses cross the river in the mornings and evenings, which is a lot of fun to watch. You can also hike the perimeter of the fields along the woodline if you don't see them and I frequently find them in the woods. Depending on the conditions that day, this can be easy and enjoyable, or it can be pretty difficult because of heat and humidity, mud, standing water, flies/insects, etc.
If you don't see the Shawnee Creek Herd at this location, go back 106-211 to Highway 106 and turn left (east). Turn left on Highway V towards Two Rivers campground and approximately 2.2 miles on the left there are some vegetation fields where the Shawnee Creek herd is frequently seen. They travel in the woods between these fields on Highway V to Shawnee Creek Campground. I've hiked through the woods between the locations and found the horses, but I wouldn't recommend that unless you know the area and understand the terrain and conditions. There are no clearly defined parking places at these fields, but you will see where people pull off to the side of the road and park.
Once again, be prepared to do a lot of walking. I've walked as much as 5 miles or more in a single visit in order to find and follow the horses at these locations. Sometimes they are in the middle of the fields, and very little walking is required, and other times, you have to be patient and wait for them or do a lot of walking along the river or in the woods to find them.
I want to make sure you are prepared to have a good experience and understand the range of possibilities. Just because you don't see them in the middle of a field doesn't mean they are not in the area. These are the times when you need to do more walking, and also you can increase your chances by going first thing in the morning or the late evenings before sunset.
THE BROADFOOT HERD
The Broadfoot herd is the third easiest to find and your chances of seeing them have been pretty good until recently. After a recent capture event, the remaining horses except for an old mare fled the area. Captures happen because of herd management requirements, which is administered by the nonprofit Missouri Wild Horse League. The Missouri Wild Horse League cares for the captured horses and manages the adoption process to find them loving and good homes. The horses returned after about a month only to leave again after the fields were mowed and baled. They will return, so be sure to visit this location during your visit. This location is a great place to ride your own horses as well as camp. The horses here are not quite as friendly as the Shawnee Creek herd and they are a little more difficult to see. They are very aware of humans in their space and they typically will either slowly move to another area in the fields if they see you or quickly exit the area and find cover in the woods or out of sight somewhere. You can drive the main loop around the fields in your car, so this location is kid and elderly-friendly.
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Tips: Peaceful location with easy loop road.
Directions: Located off of Highway 19 and Country Road 19-205 follow the gravel road, always staying to the left at forks until you reach the Broadfoot campgrounds in about 4.4 miles from the intersection of 19 and 19-205. While on 19-205 at 3.0 miles you will fork to the left and then again 3.2 miles and then continue to you arrive at Broadfoot.
Tips & Helpful Information: During some seasons, you will want a 4WD vehicle to be able to fully explore this location, and if this is not an option, a regular 2WD automobile will allow some access to the dirt road around the main field. The road was recently updated after a rough winter and rainy spring season that created very deep trenches in the loop road. The road has been recently repaired and the entire loop is in good condition. During the seasons when the road has deep ruts, be careful about driving through the seemingly innocent looking mud puddles because some are much deeper than you probably expect. I've seen one person in a regular car get stuck, and water got inside their car because of how deep it was.
Up until a recent capture event in late April, the Broadfoot location provided a fairly good opportunity to see this herd.
The location can be a little confusing to find on your first visit, but after you get it figured out, it is pretty easy. The location itself is wonderful because you can drive around in a loop on the main field and there are public restrooms, and a few campsites are available. The herd here is much wilder than the group over at Shawnee Creek, and you probably won't get very close to them. Currently, there has just been an old mare in the area that is frequently seen.
If you want to photograph the wild horses at this location, you will want a long telephoto lens because of the distance between you and the horses and the vastness of this location. The horses will look very small in the frame without a telephoto lens.
As with the other locations, the early morning and late evenings provide the best opportunity to see the horses. The river runs along the backside of the fields, and this area can flood, and the insects can be maddening during the summertime.
THE ROUND SPRING HERD
The Round Spring Herd is the second easiest to find and your chances of seeing them are hit and miss.
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Tips: Keep coming back
Directions: Located directly off of Highway 19 at the Round Spring campground north of Eminence, this is the easiest location to find and look for the wild horses.
Tips & Helpful Information: If you are camping at Echo Bluff or Current River State Park, this is an easy location to be able to check every morning and evening during your visit. Just head back south on Highway 19, and you will see Round Spring on your left. You don't need a 4WD or special vehicle to access this location and the majority of the time, you will not even get out of your car.
The two best areas to find the Round Spring herd are down along the river by the group campground area which is just past the main entrance for Round Spring and the second-best opportunity is right off of Highway 19 just past the bridge heading north. The horses will tend to gather in these two areas from time to time.
The Round Spring area seems to either be hot or cold, meaning you will see them fairly frequently or nothing at all for a while. It is a very easy location to check, so just enjoy the ride, and hopefully, you will get a chance to see and enjoy them.
THE ROCKY CREEK HERD
Difficulty Rating: Hard
Tips: Need 4WD and Lots of Patience
Directions: Located near Klepzig Mill off of highway NN and Highway H.
From Eminence, take Highway 106 east to Highway H and go south to H-522 on your left. You will need a lifted 4WD vehicle for most of this route. I don't recommend this route unless you know what you are doing because you have to pass several creeks that can be dangerous and some of the terrains can damage your vehicle. There is zero mobile phone coverage in this area, and it is very remote and isolated.
Tips & Helpful Information: There are several vegetation fields along this route where the horses have been seen before. I want to make sure you understand that it is highly unlikely that you will see this herd and the risk of either injury or damage to your vehicle is the highest of all the locations. If you get stuck or injured out here, there isn't a lot of traffic to help. I have a satellite SOS device that I keep with me when I go here.
If you are brave enough and can make your way via this route, you will end up at Klepzig Mill (four creek crossings later) and dump out at Highway NN which will take you have to Highway H. If you go left, you will go to Winona. If you go right, you will go towards Highway 106 and Eminence.
From Winona, take High H off of Highway 19 to the signs for Rocky Falls (Highway NN). Follow NN past Rocky Falls and turn left on the gravel road towards Kelpzig Mill. This route can be partially accessible to regular trucks and 4WD vehicles up until you pass the mill and get to the first creek which is very deep and swift. During the 1.1 mile drive from the turn, until you reach Klepzig Mill on your right, you will see some vegetation fields on your right. The horses are sometimes seen in these fields and even on the gravel road too.
The horses could be seen just about anywhere in this region, and since a lot of the terrain is so rugged and difficult to navigate, I don't recommend this for first-time visitors unless you are with an experienced guide. There are much easier and safer locations listed above that will provide a much stronger chance of seeing the wild horses.