Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies
Visiting the Wild Horse Monument in Central Washington
15 steel ponies. Each life-size. Posing in a galloping fashion. Bronze and rustic in color. The herd appears to be stampeding toward a cliff. All of this on a ridge high above the Columbia River Gorge.
You’re looking at Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies, a public art sculpture in central Washington, along eastbound I-90 near the city of Vantage. David Govedare, the creator of this piece, worked on the project from 1989–1990. Though the work looks amazing as is, it’s still unfinished, due to a lack of funding.
The full plans include the addition of a 36-foot diameter steel basket, tipped over, from which the herd is “cut loose”, with two additional ponies remaining in the basket. Govedare explains Grandfather’s hopes…
We love the artwork just the way it is. The herd looks free and happy in the wild.
The location of this site was chosen for a reason other than being next to a highly traveled route: the area is known as the last great roundup of Washington’s wild horses which happened so long ago…in 1906.
A pit stop enroute to your true destination
Though it’s easy to spot from the Interstate as you drive by (so long as you’re actively looking for it — it does blend in well with its surroundings), we highly recommend stopping off for a closer view.
Unfortunately, the exit is only accessible from the eastbound route. If you happen to be traveling westbound you’ll have to continue past the monument, drive over the Columbia River, then make a U-turn at exit 136. Once you’re back on the east side of the river you’ll continue on I-90 and take exit 139.
After making the exit, take a right, follow the paved road for about half a mile until you reach the parking lot. There’s about 25 parking spaces, as well as a large roundabout with plenty of side road parking for all vehicle types. If you’re hauling a trailer, or driving an RV, there’s plenty of room available.
Views of the Gorge and the Short Hike Up
Gorgeous in every direction
Once parked, get out and stretch a bit — it’s been a long drive! While stretching, take in the views of the Columbia River Gorge below you and the I-90 bridge crossing it. Amazing!
Now it’s up to you if you want to take the short hike to the top to get up close and personal with these ponies.
You’ll first walk along a dirt road that leads to the base of the ridge. From there it’s straight up and it’s rocky. Loose and sharp rocks line the trail to the top. Take your time. It’s easy to roll an ankle if you’re not careful. This is a steep climb. Short, but steep. You’ll probably take a break along the way. We were joking about how much harder it seemed than the Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier we did just a few weeks prior. Ha! Really though, nothing like that, but you may be out of breath once you reach the top.
Now that you’ve reached the top you deserve to plaster some graffiti on every steel object you come across…
Sadly, up close you’ll see that every piece in this work has been vandalized. Although some people believe graffiti adds character to the work, including some artists themselves, we would had loved to have seen it untouched.
It is what it is. You’re there now so you might as well take some photos. Or a lot of photos.
You’re in for great shots if you happened to come during a sunny day. With the sun shining down on these steel beauties, and the reflection from the river below, it’s hard to end up with a bad photo. Come during sunset or sunrise and it only gets better. Want better than better? Come at night while the Auroras are out.
Continue your travels
The time you spend here is probably around an hour. The drive, for most people, is much longer. What to do now? Well, for us, this was just a stop along the route of our final destination — Potholes State Park. It’s just under an hour east of here. This area may be dessert like, but Potholes has some of the greenest, and most upkept grass we’ve seen in any state park. We camped there for two nights and then headed back home afterwards.
Learn more and plan your visit
Follow along on our wanderings around the Pacific Northwest.
The only thing better would be being there yourself!
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