The Wild Horses of Shannon County and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways

August 16, 2016

Joyce and I had a great time visiting and photographing Prairie Hollow Gorge Natural Area in Shannon County this morning. Conditions were perfect as the intermittent stream that cuts through the gorge was running full blast, and cloudy skies allowed just the right amount of light to capture the action. Upon leaving the site, we were flabbergasted to come face to face with the Shawnee Creek herd of eight wild (feral if you prefer) horses feeding in a lush meadow of Sericea. The featured image is of one of two stallions in the group, a stunning white beast with a tangled mane and ropy musculature. I always throw a 300 mm f/4 lens in my shoulder bag when doing landscape photography, just in case. The “just in case” this morning was more than I could have hoped for, and boy did that lens come in handy.

I’ve been photographing the springs, waterfalls, and natural areas of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (OSNR) for almost 10 years and I’ve only encountered the wild horses one other time. It was pitch dark, about 3:30 AM, and five or six of them were standing in the middle of Highway 19 near the entrance to Round Spring Campground. Although there are three or more separate herds in the ONSR, unless you are specifically looking for them, where they like to feed and loaf, these feral horses can be quite elusive. I have a few friends who actually search for the horses now and then and are very skilled at finding them. Bumping into them by pure serendipity, as we did this morning, was all the more exciting.



A stallion and one of the mares in the band of eight that we ran across this morning.



A nice look at a horse that has never been groomed in its entire life.



The twisted but lovely mane of one of the band of equine beauties. Apparently, feral horses have no problem munching on Sericea but perhaps they were finding something between the invasive sprigs.



The stallion on the right appeared to be the leader of the group, but who knows?



It took every thing I had to finally pull away from photographing these massive animals.



A final look at the entire band of eight. Wow!

If you are interested in the 100-year history of the wild horses of Shannon County, just Google “Wild Horses Ozark National Scenic Riverways” and you will find more than you might want to read about these impressive animals. In a nutshell, many horses were released in the 20s and 30s when times were tough on farmers and landowners. By 1990 the herd had grown to a size of concern to the National Park Service, and plans were made to remove the animals. Under protest from local horse lovers, the herd was eventually protected by the Federal Government with specifications to limit its size by removal of young horses, usually stallions, for adoption around the country. The bill was signed by President Bill Clinton.

I hope these images convey some of the excitement that Joyce and I experienced this morning. After photographing Prairie Hollow Gorge, spending time with the horses, visiting the Virgin Pine Forest near Round Spring, including a picnic with homemade chicken salad puffs, scones and coffee, and stopping at the new Echo Bluff State Park, we were pretty exhausted. After all, we’d left the house at 4:00 AM. I have yet to review the images from Prairie Hollow Gorge, but I look forward to sharing them with you in an upcoming edition.

Thanks for looking,


I would love to hear from you at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images and Print Information:


6 comments on “The Wild Horses of Shannon County and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways”

  1. This is an amazing post to me. I hadn’t known of the existence of a herd of feral horses, and It was great to be able to look at some animals that have returned to the wild. Thank you!

    • Thanks Deepa. These horses are actually descendants of horses that were returned to the wild almost a century ago. All of these were likely born in the wild.

  2. While maybe attractive and they certainly touch our “wild heart” emotionally, all these horse are invasive species and do not belong in the Scenic Riverways! Too bad they were illegally released there and the Park Service should have gotten rid of them many years ago. They do a lot of damage to our natural areas.

    • Gene is correct, the ONSR would be better off without any introduced species. Unfortunately, the horses are here to stay. The good news is that their numbers are relatively easy to control, as compared to other invasives. Lately, the damage to natural areas that is inflicted directly by vandals has been of equal concern to me.

  3. WOW!! That’s is so neat to see those horses in the wild. Thank’s for showing them. I can’t wait to see the pictures of Prairie Hollow Gorge.
    Thank’s for sharing

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