I just returned from an Elderhostel trip to Utah which included a stop at Dead Horse Point State Park overlooking the Colorado River. The legend behind its name, currently cited on the State Park literature, is that in the 1800s cowboys used the point to catch wild horses. With sheer cliffs on all sides and an access only 30 yards wide, the point made a perfect trap. Cowboys herded horses onto the point and built a fence across the narrow neck to create a natural corral. According to legend, a band of horses left corralled on the waterless point died of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.
Our tour coordinator, Marcia Cooper, who grew up in Moab, UT, about 25 miles away, had a different story. She said when the first Mormon pioneers visited the point in the 1800s; one of them spotted a rock formation below and said “that looks like a dead horse.” The name stuck, but later local officials decided they needed a more dramatic story to publicize the area. A contest was held with area school children and the one who described the trapped horses won. I think I’ll go with Marcia’s version.