Dead Horse Ranch

Dasher DHRBlue Dasher

Queen DHRQueen Butterfly

Yesterday we went to Clarkdale, AZ, to see an old friend of Tony’s who was visiting his parents there. After lunching in nearby Cottonwood, we went to Dead Horse Ranch State Park.

The developed portion of the park covers 423 acres with a 3,300 foot elevation. It is part of a six-mile reach of the river known as the Verde River Greenway State Natural Area. Its unique ecosystem, the Cottonwood and Willow riparian gallery forest, is one of less than 20 such riparian zones in the world. Life along the river changes with the seasons, giving visitors a glimpse of the numerous species of raptors, neotropical migrants, resident songbirds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. (AZ State Parks)



The story of the park’s name begins with the Ireys family, who came to Arizona from Minnesota looking for a ranch to buy in the late 1940s. At one of the ranches they discovered a large dead horse lying by the road. After two days of viewing ranches, Dad Ireys asked the kids which ranch they liked the best. The kids said, “the one with the dead horse, Dad!” The Ireys family chose the name Dead Horse Ranch and later, in 1973, when Arizona State Parks acquired the park, the Ireys made retaining the name a condition of sale. (AZ State Parks)



Clear water makes the underwater world visible.

I had high hopes of adding many new birds to my life list but, no. We heard a lot of birds but mostly what we saw were Grackles, which we have in our own yard. With 3 lagoons and the Verde River, I was surprised to not see more water birds. All I saw were a Great Blue Heron, a Green Heron, a Mallard mom and her 2 young ones, and a Coot. We have more birds in our lakes in Phoenix so I don’t know why there weren’t more. The lagoons get stocked every other week so there are plenty of fish.

This bird, below, is a Lifer, though, the only one I got yesterday. This is an immature Bullock’s Oriole. A gust of wind blew and the bird took off right after this.

Bullocks Oriole DHR

DHR SparrowSong Sparrow

Lizard DHRArizona Striped Whiptail Lizard

Widow Skimmer DHRWidow Skimmer

Ants DHR_edited-1The Stuff of Nightmares

Tons of ants everywhere so we didn’t want to stand still too long.



Once again, wrong time of year to be at this park. It was only a few degrees cooler than Phoenix so it was still over 100°.  We did get some exercise, though, and saw a beautiful new-to-us park. I’m sure in the fall it will be very “birdy.”

8 thoughts on “Dead Horse Ranch

  1. Another great blog. . .interestingly enough, Dead Horse was at the center of the old Yavapai Reservation which stretched ten miles up and down river. The reservation only lasted 2.5 years and was decommissioned by an act of Congress. Some 1400 Yavapa (and not many Apache)i were marched out of there on barefoot in the snow to the San Carlos Reservation. A few hundred died on the way. It was their ‘trail of tears.” Today the Apache would have you conflate the two tribes. . they were never the same back in the 1860’s; they pretty much hated each other; the Apache really didn’t ‘occupy’ or reside in any of the Verde Valley past Camp Verde. A story little told. I might get around to it one of these days.


  2. Wow, Candy, I confess, you have gotten a lot more out of this visit than I would have. Yes, it is hot there this time of year, and the name of the park does not really help its image. I have tried to explore Arizona, and often found it is just the ‘wrong time of year.’
    The Bulluck’s Oriole photo looked beautiful. I will look forward to your re-visiting the park at a (recommended) better time of year, and see what you can spot for us. Did you go to the wineries in Cottonwood, by any chance? I hear they are having art shows and live music to encourage visitors.

    Liked by 1 person

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