WILD HORSES OF MISSOURI
ROCKY CREEK HERD
Rocky Creek is a stream that rises in Buckeye Township and flows northeast to the Current River in Bowlan Township. According to research by the University of Missouri, the creek got its name from the descriptive nature of the stream bed. I have hiked through and driven across Rocky Creek many times, verifying that the name is accurate!
The Rocky Creek herd is probably the most elusive and difficult to find. We can go months at a time or even longer between finding them. Their natural habitat remains very wild and rugged, even in modern times. It is like time stands still in this area.
I had to search for two years to find them for the first time, and I live within 15 to 30 minutes of areas they have been known to frequent.
The terrain is rugged, and the horses know when people are in their space.
The members of each herd change over time because of several factors. Lead stallions are known for visiting other herds and bands to steal mares. Yes, that is correct; the stallions swoop in and steal mares from other herds. Also, because of the monitoring and management of the herd per the law, sometimes members are gathered to keep the size of the herds within the bounds of the legal agreement.
MY FIELD DIARY
|October 29, 2022||NN-A/B, KMHF||18||We found the entire Rocky Creek herd today at sunrise. This was a special treat because the entire herd is back together again. I was the first person to report they had broken into two bands back on October 10th. They looked strong and healthy, and all of the foals looked great too. They only tolerated us for about 2 minutes, and they were gone. I did get a few photos and some videos that I will share. Today was the first day of youth deer hunting season, and we heard gunfire and dogs all morning long. We ended up running into a ranger, and I asked him if deer hunting was allowed on the OSNR public land. He said, much to my surprise, that deer hunting is allowed, but no dogs. Clearly, the hunters were breaking the law by running the deer with the dogs, and of course, this will drive the wild horses deep into the woods. We didn't find any of the other herds for the remainder of the day, and I am not surprised based on all of the gunfire.|
|October 27, 2022||NN-A/B, KMHF, 522H-Loop||0||No sign of either Rocky Creek band in the places we looked today. We did see some fresh manure in a few places. We will try again!|
|October 21, 2022||NN-A/B, KMHF, 522H-Loop||0||No sign of either Rocky Creek Band today, but we did find very fresh manure in several places that we scouted and hiked. Maybe next time!|
|October 17, 2022||NN-B||8||Today was a magical day. After an extensive and exhaustive effort, we found the second band of the Rocky Creek herd that we suspected existed, as noted in the update yesterday. There was one very young foal, probably a month old or possibly less, and a young foal that was probably born in late May with the herd. When we found them, we immediately knew this band was not the same that we found yesterday, and after a closer inspection with high-powered binoculars and a telephoto lens, we confirmed what we suspected. It was a joyful moment to see these horses living and thriving in the wild as they were born to do. Hopefully, we get to see them again soon. This means Rocky Creek now has 18 members, and that makes sense because we counted 16 back on May 23, 2022, and we know that one adult died in a field that was reported by a farmer, and there are three new foals making 18 horses.|
|October 16, 2022||KMHF||10||
Finally, after a long dry spell since May 23, 2022, we found the Rocky Creek herd today! It was interesting because there were only 10, with one new foal in this group today. Someone else shared they saw them yesterday with 8 in the field and 6 off to the side in the trees. In May, there were 16, with a few foals and a few pregnant mares, so the math isn't adding up.
I have to assume the larger herd has split into two different bands at this time, but only time will tell if that theory is correct or not. They only tolerated us for a few minutes until a bird spooked them, and off they ran at full speed into the woods. We were packing up and noticed they had reversed directions in the woods and headed north after being out of sight for at least 8 to 10 minutes. We can only assume something in the woods or along the creek made them do a 180 and turn around. We hiked for a few miles and found a lot of fresh droppings, so we plan to return to this general area this coming week and hopefully get to see them again. I am very curious about the remaining horses, which I speculate must be 10 or more.
|October 09, 2022||KM, KMHF, 522, 106B, PM||0||We hiked the area around KMHF, and no signs of the horses. The fields looked like they were probably mowed within the last month or so, and they should be easy to hike again this fall and winter. We drove the entire 522 backroads and went over to 106B and PM as well. SD reported them again in his yard, which seems to be their current pattern lately. They seem to be favoring the Rocky Falls side for now.|
|August 21, 2022||KM||0||We could not get through on the Klepzig Mill road today because a tree was down over the road. It was a major bummer because we found the other three herds today, and we had high hopes of finding all four herds in a single day. Today was not the day.|
|May 24, 2022||KMHF||0||We had high hopes that we would find the Rocky Creek herd for the third time in a row, but it didn't happen today, unfortunately. We hiked deep into the backcountry and along the creeks and saw many fresh signs of them, but no horses today. We will continue to follow and try and find them because we know that a new foal is probably going to be born very soon.|
|May 23, 2022||KMHF||16||
This was a banner day because we found the Rocky Creek herd in the exact same spot as we did yesterday which is extremely rare and unusual. We are try9ing to figure out this new behavior and our best guess is the big white mare may be getting ready to foal. On both days the horses were huddled very close together and not grazing as they normally do. Sort of just standing there in a gaze. There were 16 horses as usual with the Rocky Creek herd today. We spent over two hours watching them from under the cover of the woods and they tolerated us again today which is also very odd. The stallion was clearly identified today (Grey with blonde mane). We are going to try and continue finding them daily because we suspect a new foal is very close.
|May 22, 2022
||KMHF||16||There were 16 horses as usual with the Rocky Creek herd today. One of the white mares looks like she may foal at any time. We spent over 2 hours with the herd today which is very rare that they would tolerate us this long. A friend was watching the herd about an hour before me. Possibly this has something to do with the mare getting ready to foal? I will track Rocky Creek as much as I can to try and determine when she foals.
|April 25, 2022
||KMHF||0||We hiked the main fields but were unable to cross the creeks because of high water. There was no sign of the herd in the front three fields this time.|
|April 15, 2022||KMHF||?||We arrived at KMHF a little before daybreak in hopes of seeing this incredible and very elusive herd.|
|April 09, 2022||KMHF||16||We found the herd at KMHF # 4 around 11:30 AM. They ran within less than one minute of seeing them. We did get a couple of videos and a few photos of them before they ran. We tracked them and I saw them go into # 5 and then lost them. We crossed 3 creeks and hiked 3.2 miles today and uncovered a lot of new places to find them in the future. Later on our way out, we found them a second time at NN-B and by the time we got out of the truck and down to where we saw them, they were already gone. This is the first time ever that we found this herd twice in one day at two different locations. We found from MWHL that someone had found the herd near KM around 7 AM and this may explain why they were so intolerant of us. It appears they crossed RC and went through the woods over to NN-B. This is extremely rugged terrain and there is no chance of us exploring this possible route on foot.|
|April 05, 2022||KMHF||0||We searched the first 3 at KMHF and did not find the herd. We identified the path where they ran away from us the last time on March 26th. I crossed the creek and followed the trail across 2 more creeks and found what appeared to be a good next step for tracking them.|
|March 26, 2022||KMHF||16||
We searched all of the fields at 106B and explored the old homestead at Klepzig, the NN-A and NN-B fields, and the Robinson area. After a very long dry period (since July 5, 2020), we found a herd of 16 at KMHF.
It was a fantastic experience, and we got some incredible video footage today with them. I got a few photos, but my main focus was video today.
|Mar 19, 2022||KMHF, 106BF||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|Mar 13, 2022||KMHF, PR||0||
I did not find the herd today. We found fresh tracks and signs of the herd at KMHF. Today, MDC was doing controlled burns over NN towards Rocky Falls and the mill.
|Mar 05, 2022||106B, PM, KMHF, PR||0||I did not find the herd today.
|Mar 02, 2022||106B, PM, KMHF, PR||0||I did not find the herd today.
|Feb 26, 2022||106B, PM, KMHF, PR||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|Feb 20, 2022||106B, PM||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|Feb 13, 2022||106B, PM||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|Feb 12, 2022||106B/PM/OB||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|Feb 06, 2022||106B, PM, PR||I did not find the herd today.|
|January 28, 2022||106B, PM, PR||0||I did not find the herd today.
|January 24, 2022||106B||15||A friend found the herd today along Current River and counted 15.
|January 2, 2022||0||We Did not find the herd today.
|August 01, 2021||KM, NN-A, NN-B||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|April 25, 2021||KM, NN-A, NN-B||0||I did not find the herd today.
|April 21, 2021||PM||?||A friend found an unverified number today at the location.|
|January 16, 2021||PR||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|December 21, 2020||PR, NN-A||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|November 21, 2020||PR, NN-A||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|September 01, 2020||PR, NN-A||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|August 26, 2020||KM||?||A friend reported an unverified number of horses near Klepzig.
|August 02, 2020||PR||0||I did not find the herd today.
|July 5, 2020||PR||?||I found an unverified number of horses in the Mark Twain National Forest.|
|July 4, 2020||PR||?||I found an unverified number of horses in the Mark Twain National Forest.|
|July 3, 2020||PR||14||I found 14 horses in the Mark Twain National Forest.
|April 17, 2020||NN-A, NN-B||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|April 09, 2020||NN-A, NN-B, NN-C, RC-A, RC-B||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|April 06, 2020||NN-A, NN-B||0||I did not find the herd today.|
|April 05, 2020||NN-A, NN-B||0||I did not find the herd today|
|March 06, 2020||NN-B||12||
I found 12 members of the herd today at NN-B.
HISTORY OF THE WILD HORSES OF MISSOURI
Shannon County is home to a beautiful herd of wild horses located in Southeast Missouri in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways on public land about 130 miles from Springfield and 150 miles from St. Louis.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the first national park area to protect a river system and the only state where wild horses still roam free. It hasn't been an easy path for the wild horses over the last 100 years, and it would be foolish to think current conditions couldn't change and put the horses back in danger again.
During the 1980s, the National Park Service announced a plan to remove the wild horses, and people were outraged.
In 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court denied a final appeal to protect the horses and gave the National Park Service the right to remove the horses from federal land.
The national park service started removing the wild horses in a profoundly upsetting way to residents and horse lovers around the country. The people of Shannon County and horse lovers around the country rallied together, and the Wild Horse League of Missouri was formed.
Luckily, by 1996 the Wild Horse League of Missouri, which formed in 1992 to save the wild horses, received help from the people of Shannon County, Congressman Bill Emerson, Senators Kit Bond, and John Ashcroft.
Their tireless efforts paid off, and President Clinton signed a bill into law on October 3, 1996, to make the wild horses of Shannon County a permanent part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
People worldwide visit Shannon County in hopes of seeing these majestic wild horses.
The Missouri Wild Horse League works with the National Park Service to capture some horses when the herd exceeds 50. The captured horses are taken into care and evaluated before being adopted by loving families for permanent homes.
It is important to remember that these horses are wild. When looking for them, be sure not to approach them or feed them. It is essential to keep these animals wild and free and for you to be safe. The horses are big, strong, and unpredictable and for your safety, keep a safe distance of 100 yards or more between you and the horses.
O'Brien, Anna. "Place Names Of Five Central Southern Counties of Missouri." M.A. thesis., University of Missouri-Columbia, 1939.