Earlier this week, my initial plan was to write our next blog post on a spontaneous road trip we took during winter break in 2013. Due to the recent events concerning the wild horses in the Salt River area in Arizona, we felt it would be the appropriate time to share our experiences on the Salt River. This post is in no way meant to be a political rant or anything of that nature, but more so our thoughts and feelings on the recent events and why we feel this way based on our experience.
Per the officials of the Tonto National Forest, the horses pose a safety risk to the public. Due to this concern, the US forest service came up with a plan to “annihilate” the horses by rounding them up and selling them at auction. The notice posted by the officials state that any horse that is unclaimed or not sold at auction will be “…destroyed, or other wise disposed of…”
I feel that the outrage and confusion for all of us opposed to this action is that there are no reports of the horses attacking people. How could fear and assumption that something MIGHT happen someday drive such a drastic move that could kill these animals? One official gave an example about the horses standing near children and how the children could have been hurt. I can’t help but think of how idiotic this logic is. Should we then remove all of the animals out of the wild in order to protect people?
We spent many days and nights at the Salt River either hiking, camping, or floating down the river in our raft. I remember one morning we woke up and heard the horses running by our tent. They never bothered us, they just passed through. There were several occasions while floating down the river that we would pass the horses. Several babies and their mom’s peacefully drinking water and curiously looking at us as we passed by. The older horses, accustomed to the sight of people, always appeared unfazed by our presence.
The horses had a calm and peaceful demeanor, and as a parent, what a blessing it was to have Riley witness the presence of these animals in their natural environment. If the officials with the forest service are concerned about public safety, why don’t they focus their efforts on teaching people how to respect nature and the animals? We took Riley on his first hike when he was 4 months old. Even when he was too young to understand, a focus we had as parents was to teach Riley to respect nature. We continue to teach him to stay on the trails, don’t pick or destroy plants, and don’t run or intimidate other animals no matter how big or small they are.
From our experience on the river, we feel the public needs to be educated on proper conduct in the wild. It was very irritating to be camping along the river and have a group of people leave all of their trash around, demonstrating to the rest of us that they have no respect for their surroundings. Imagine floating down the river and finding beer cans, marshmallows, bags of food left behind. We feel human beings are more detrimental to this area than the horses are.
Arizona was our home for 5 years and we loved it. We made amazing memories and learned to appreciate the state, it’s landscape, the animals, and all of it’s beauty. These horses made the experience in the river much more exciting and contributed to some wonderful family memories.
A little bit of info for those wanting to have some Salt River fun. The drive was usually about 45 minutes for us. When we moved to North Scottsdale, we’d usually go through Fountain Hills and up the 87. When we lived in Tempe, it was easier to take the 202 to East Mesa to access the river. During the summer, Salt River tubing is a favorite past time for those who enjoy floating the river for several hours. Tube rentals and a free ride to and from the drop off points is offered to those who don’t have their own equipment. We never went that route since children have to be at least 8 years old to rent a tube and ride on the bus. Riley has been floating the river since he was 2, so that was never an option! We would use our big raft, bring a cooler with food and drinks, and relax!
There are 5 entrance/exit points for the river where you can either get a ride on the bus, or park your car. We’d take both of our vehicles and park them at different points depending on how long we wanted to float the river. One time we went the whole 5 hours, and it was exhausting! When we approached the 5th hour, the river became incredibly still so we had to use team work to row towards the parking lot. Rowing in the hot Arizona sun after a couple beers is not the best idea. Although we were incredibly tired, we couldn’t help but laugh at the experience.
Overall, the river was one of our favorite places to hike, camp, fish, and float. It’s definitely one of the things I miss the most about living in Arizona.