Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Apr 13, 2023 | CLON-X, Texas

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo and Canyon, Texas, and is the second-largest “grand” canyon in the United States. It is roughly 120 miles long and has an average width of 6 miles, but at some points, it’s 20 miles wide. 

The canyon system, which is part of the Caprock Escarpment, was formed by millions of years of water erosion by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and the West Texas wind. The cliff walls descend some 800 to 1000 feet to the canyon floor, but with sixteen miles of paved road the park is easily accessible by car or motorhome. 

After a hearty breakfast, we packed Bullet into our SUV and drove the three and a half miles to the only entrance to the park. With the high season winding down, the park was relatively quiet – only a few RV campers and three lone tent dwellers as far as I could tell. But I was on a photoshoot quest and not seriously counting park occupants. 

Whenever we exited the SUV, it was time for divided attention. Framing the perfect shot – absolutely! And I think I captured some good ones. But I also had my attention focused on the ground, as in where I stepped. My biggest concern: rattlesnakes. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter any. 

Some 150 years ago, buffalo herds roamed this area, and the canyon was a retreat for the Quahada Comanche, one of the most powerful and ruthless Native American tribes. Chief Quanah Parker, the last of the Quahada Comanche warriors, fought the battle of Palo Duro Canyon not more than 20-miles east of the Doves Rest Cabins in September 1874. The fight brought an official end to the US/Indian wars and the peace that allowed settlers to occupy this last remaining freedom-outpost of “uncivilized” land in North America. We will learn more about Quanah Parker in a future blog post devoted entirely to the Comanche chief. 

Unfortunately, during my visit to Palo Duro Canyon I did not have the opportunity to even glimpse the elusive Aoudad Sheep that roam the canyons. Learn more: https://www.texaspanhandlebirdnerd.com/post/aoudad-sheep-in-palo-duro-canyon

Read more and view more photos of Palo Duro Canyon at: https://jefflynchdev.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/spanish-skirts-of-palo-duro-canyon/

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