Wind, waves and wild horses

It was a sight to behold Friday night as waves from Big Horn Lake crashed onto and even over the 14A causeway east of Lovell.

High winds and high water combined to create conditions at the lake rare for Wyoming: roiling water, ocean-like whitecaps and breakers crashing against and over the causeway as if it was a harbor breakwater. It looked like an ocean scene.

The winds had actually calmed a bit by the time Susan and I arrived to photograph the event, summoned from the Pioneer Day Ice Cream Social in Cowley. When we got to the causeway we found Wyoming Dept. of Transportation snowplows being used to clear driftwood and debris from the road surface, and while they were at it, the big trucks acted as pilot vehicles, escorting a line of traffic one direction and back again.

Sheriff Ken Blackburn and Deputy Mike McKee provided traffic control at the scene.

For many people, this year’s high water threatening the causeway is reminiscent of when Big Horn Lake was first filled during the mid-1960s and the water covered the highway surface, forcing the roadbed to be raised.

WyDOT officials have certainly been nervous in recent days as the lake elevation reached the 3,655 mark and threatened to climb higher until the Bureau of Reclamation increased releases for a couple of days. But even without inundating the highway, high water has certainly wreaked havoc, eroding the causeway embankment and sending WyDOT maintenance crews scrambling for fill rock to shore up the causeway.

The old Kane road just west of the causeway is gone – inundated by the high water levels, and the ML Ranch on the other side of the lake has become beachfront property with the waters reaching the ranch fence line. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area personnel placed sandbags around some of the ML buildings as a precautionary measure.

This has been quite a year for flooding and highway washouts in Wyoming and Montana, including the tragic deaths of a Colorado family who plunged into a highway washout near Saratoga recently in southern Wyoming.

Locally, both U.S. Highway 14A and 14 have been closed this spring and summer due to slides.

Our highway crews are vigilant and quick to react to situations, and we appreciate their efforts.

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It was a sad day on the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range Sunday – two Pryor Mountain mustangs struck and killed by an apparent drunk driver.

Besides the loss of the horses in general and the horrific way in which they died, what is also sad is that the father-son duo were two of the most frequently seen horses on the range.

Most visitors don’t have the resources or the time to make the rugged trek to the top of the Pryor Mountains, and sightings of wild horses further to the north of Horseshoe Bend in the Dryhead area of the Transpark Highway can be sporadic.

But you could almost always count on seeing Admiral and his band near Crooked Creek Bay and the Crooked Creek parking lot just inside the southern boundary of the horse range.

Admiral was a beautiful dark bay and was surely among the most photographed horses in the entire Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

And now he’s gone in tragic fashion, along with his yearling son.

This is the first time anyone locally can remember a horse being struck and killed by a car on the Transpark Highway, and we should all remember to be cautious as we drive the park road.

Many have remarked what a great year this is for horses along the park road, but it’s a double-edged sword. Great viewing also means more close encounters with mustangs.

By David Peck

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