SAND WASH BASIN COLORADO
Home of Wild Stallion Picasso (RIP 2019)
Horses within the Sand Wash Basin HMA exhibit many different colors, although the most common are gray and sorrel. Based on genetic analysis, the herd's highest similarity is to Iberian Spanish breeds, followed by gaited breeds, North American breeds, and Arabian breeds.
Location: The Sand Wash Basin HMA is in northwest Colorado, about 45 miles west of Craig.
Size: 157,730 acres, including 154,940 acres of public land, 1,960 acres of private land, and 840 acres of state land.
Topography/Vegetation: The HMA's ridges and mesas are covered in sagebrush and bunchgrass, saltbush, and pinon-juniper woodlands. The climate is typical of the Rocky Mountain region's cold deserts, with warm summers and very cold winters.
Wildlife: Elk, mule deer, Greater sage-grouse, pronghorn, white-tailed prairie dogs.
OTHER COLORADO BLM HERD MANAGEMENT AREAS
There are four BLM Wild Horse Management Areas in Colorado on approximately 400 thousand acres. The combined appropriate management level for all HMAs in the state is 812 animals.
Little Book Cliffs is about 2.5 hours southwest of Sand Wash Basin, but Piceance East Douglas HMA near Meeker is on the way and only about 50 miles from Craig. Little Book Cliff wild horses have a diversity of colors, band sizes, and ages. Horses include palominos, paints, grays, blacks, bays, sorrels, blue and red roans as well as a few appaloosas. Band sizes range from two to 10 horses. Due to high public visitation, the wild horses are less skittish than other horses, so photo opportunities are ideal.
Location: The Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range is located in northwest Colorado, about 8 miles northeast of Grand Junction. AML: 90-150
PICEANCE-EAST DOUGLAS wild horses are similar in size and temperament to quarter horses, and some resemble workhorses. Typical colors are bay, gray, sorrel, and black. A few horses are also other colors like roan and buckskin.
Location: The Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area is in northwest Colorado, southwest of Meeker and east of State Highway 139. Meeker is only about 50 miles from Craig.
Size: 190,130 acres AML: 135-235
Travel 19 miles north of Rifle on State Highway 13 to County Road 5 (Piceance Creek Road). From CR5, take either CR 24 (Ryan Gulch) or CR 20 (Duck Creek). Or, from the west take either CR 27 (East Douglas) or CR 128 (Tommy’s Draw) from State Highway 139.
The county roads within the Piceance-East Douglas HMA are packed gravel and dirt that can be navigated by a two-wheel drive vehicle, but snow and rain can cause them to become difficult or impassable at times. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended during inclement weather.
Please use the link below for a Tour Loop Map.
SPRING CREEK BASIN wild horses include bays, sorrels, grays, and pintos. Legend says that in the early 1900s, a Montana rancher came to Disappointment Valley with a herd of stolen horses that he raised to sell to the U.S. Cavalry and other groups. When the law began to close in on him, he gathered some of his horses and quickly left the area. Local ranchers managed the remaining horses by culling undesirable horses and adding their own stock, and now the BLM manages the herd under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
Location: The Spring Creek Basin HMA is in Disappointment Valley in southwest Colorado, between Norwood and Dove Creek. Norwood is about 2.5 hours south of Grand Junction.
The Sand Wash Basin HMA (Herd Management Area) is located in the northwest corner of Colorado, about 48 miles west of Craig, Colorado. It is public land managed by the BLM, Bureau of Land Management.
It is approximately 16 hours from West Plains to Craig, Co. From West Plains, head towards Springfield and then north to Kansas City. Then connect with I-70 in KC and do the drive straight across Kansas into Colorado heading towards Denver. From Denver to Craig it is about 3.5 hours.
Heading west out of Craig, follow Highway 40 for 30 miles to the town of Maybell, Colorado. Just west of Maybell turn northwest (a right turn) to Hwy 318 for 17 miles to the entrance of Sand Wash Basin. Turn north on Moffat County Road 67 into the HMA.
If you are coming from Utah on Hwy 40, you would turn northwest (a left turn) to Hwy 318 for 17 miles to the entrance of Sand Wash Basin. If coming from the west on Hwy 318 the entrance is about 43 miles from the Utah state line.
Use this google map link to get driving directions from your location.
For first-time visitors, it is recommended to follow the "Wild Horse Loop" marked in red on the map.
Road Conditions and Precautions
All the roads within the HMA are gravel, dirt, and sand. Some roads have a fair gravel base, but many do not. No culverts in the basin, so you will be driving through several "washes." A high clearance 4x4 vehicle is recommended. Any type of moisture (rain or snow) can make the roads extremely slippery and impassable. Do check weather forecasts before heading to the basin, even heavy rains from the previous day or two will affect the condition of the roads. This area is remote, and cell service is spotty at best. Come prepared with water and essentials, and most importantly a good spare tire.
Maybell Colorado Options (18 miles to BLM Offices)
Old Victory Hotel
241 Lowell St, Maybell, CO 81640
Craig Colorado Options (50 miles via Highway 40W to BLM Offices)
The BLM office is located in Craig as well making it easy to stop in the office and get maps and information.
BLM Northwest District Office
Elijah Waters, District Manager
455 Emerson St.
Craig, CO 81625
Candlewood Suites Craig-Northwest, an IHG Hotel
92 Commerce St, Craig, CO 81625
Best Western Plus Deer Park Hotel And Suites
262 Commerce St, Craig, CO 81625
Hampton Inn & Suites Craig
377 Cedar Ct, Craig, CO 81625
Quality Inn & Suites
300 CO-13, Craig, CO 81625
Super 8 by Wyndham Craig
200 CO-13, Craig, CO 81625
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who is allowed to visit Sand Wash Basin and the wild horses?
This is public BLM land, so anyone can visit. Please note that you are required to keep a minimum distance of 100 feet or more to the wild horses at all times. If you are caught being any closer, you could get a ticket from a federal law enforcement officer and be forced to pay a fine. Plus, getting too close to the wild horses is a danger to them and you and hurts their ability to remain wild.
Where can I get more information to help me on-site?
When you enter the basin on County Road 67, you will see an information kiosk on your left that the BLM maintains. I strongly recommend you stop, read, and take a photo of this sign and information.
Does it cost anything to visit?
No, it is public land.
Can I camp in Sand Wash Basin?
Yes, you must follow relevant dispersed camping policies, just like any other BLM land.
Please do not camp close to watering holes/ponds because this will interfere with the wild horse's natural behavior. Remember, they are afraid of you. You must take out everything you bring in with you. There are no outhouses or facilities of any kind. Don't be foolish and be sure to bring more than enough food and water in case you get stranded for some reason.
Are there any seasonal limitations when visiting Sand Wash Basin?
Yes. Since the roads are unimproved and unmaintained, the roads become very muddy and slick during the spring rains and during thunderstorms. Once the snow arrives in the winter, it can be impossible to drive into the basin due to drifting and deep snow. It's advisable to always check the weather before entering the basin. Summers are prone to flash floods during heavy rainstorms.
Can I get maps for Sand Wash Basin?
Several places in Craig and Maybell, Colorado have maps. The Craig Chamber of Commerce, Little Snake BLM office during business hours, Moffat County Tourism, Maybell Store, and brochure racks in various locations have free maps.
Do I need a 4WD vehicle to drive in the basin?
Yes and one with higher than normal clearance is a really good idea. The roads in the basin are very rough and do not have culverts, so you will be driving through steep "washes." Some long wheelbase trucks can have problems with the washes due to the steepness, so be very alert and prepared to get stuck.
Is there any other wildlife that lives in Sand Wash Basin?
Do mobile phones work in the basin?
AT&T works the best but still expect spotty service.
What should I wear while visiting the basin?
Strongly recommend long pants, and hiking shoes/boots with snake gators or snake boots to help protect yourself from the sharp cacti and rattlesnakes.
Is water available in the basin?
No, you must bring all the water for yourself. Keep in mind that Sand Wash Basin is a desert and arid.
How big is Sand Wash Basin?
Sand Wash Basin covers 250 square miles or about 166,000 acres.
Is there lodging close to Sand Wash Basin?
The closest lodging is in Maybell, Colorado (Victory Hotel and campground with amenities). Maybell is about 17 miles from the basin. More options are available in Craig, Colorado. Craig has the most choices in lodging, offering a variety of motels/hotels. Craig is about 47 miles from the basin.
Why are there gates in Sand Wash Basin?
The majority of the basin is fenced to help keep the horses within the boundaries of the protected area within the basin. If the horses leave the basin, they are not protected and are subject to being removed.
Can I bring my dog to Sand Wash Basin?
Technically yes, but it is generally a bad idea for a lot of reasons. You will be focused on finding the wild horses most likely and tending to your dog or leaving it in a hot car are not good ideas. If you still want to bring your dog, all dogs MUST always be leashed and under your control or you could get a ticket. They cannot run loose and chase wild horses or any wildlife. Keep in mind that the basin has rattlesnakes too.
INTERESTING PLACES NEARBY
Dinosaur National Monument
BLM Northwest District Office
Elijah Waters, District Manager
455 Emerson St.
Craig, CO 81625