As we drove the perfectly flat lands from
Amarillo to the canyon I found it hard to believe there could be
any drastic change in elevations. Boy was I wrong.
|Group of Roadsters visit Palo
Palo Duro Canyon is located 27 miles
southeast of Amarillo, Texas. The park consists of 29,182 acres
at the northern most section of the Palo Duro Canyon. It opened July 4, 1934 with much
of its roads and buildings built by Civilian Conservation Corps
and has been popular ever since. We had to wait in line at the
entrance to Palo Duro Canyon State Park as so many visitors were
arriving that Saturday including a group of antique roadsters
and lots of bikers.
Once inside the park, the views are
breathtaking. So much color and shapes. The Canyon is 120 miles
long and 20 miles
across at its widest point with a maximum depth of over 800
feet. You can feel a temperature change between the bottom and
the rim that rises 3,500 feet above sea level. It Palo Duro
Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in the United States.
It's hard to believe the canyon was formed by erosion from
Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.
Early Spanish explorers named the canyon
"Palo Duro" meaning "hard wood" because the area is filled with
mmesquite and juniper
trees. These are small trees so the views are unobstructed. And
oh what views. The first thing that caught my attention was the
colors. The cliffs and formations are variations of reds and
oranges with some buff mixed in. The mesquite trees were a
bright green and the juniper a darker shade.
Each formation in the canyon is different.
Some are what is called "hoodoos." These are
mushroom shaped columns
of sedimentary rock jutting out of the canyon floor. Their top
portion is a harder rock
which didn't erode at
the same rate as the column thus forming a larger cap. The
Lighthouse is one of the larger example of this
phenomena. It can be viewed from the lookout in front of
the Visitors center.
One formation that caught my eye seemed to
be faces high on a cliff is called "Sad Monkey."
The ruffle like coloration and shape of
some of the cliffs caused early Spanish explorers to name them
"Spanish Skirts." They were probably homesick for their lady
friends back home.
Surprisingly the flowers are beautiful here
as well. Not the big showy display of a botanical garden or the
lushness of a jungle but the blooms standing alone on barren
sand or rock are very eye catching.
|Striking deadwood in front of a
As we rode along the canyon bottom road, I
spotted a lot of cave openings that made me itch to explore
|Climbers visit a cave in one of
the canyon walls
Best place to get acquainted with the park,
the canyon and their history is at the Visitors Center. There is
a nice museum of natural and historical facts about the canyon.
You can get up close and personal with the
park by staying at its campground or cabins. The campgrounds
accommodate both RV and tents and have full hookups.
trails, hiking, mountain biking and horseback, built by a
group of park volunteers
called the Palo Duro Corps of Engineers honeycomb the
|Campers park their Teardrop to
If you visit from June through August there
is another treat in store for you. Texas, The State Play
of Texas, is shown at the Pioneer amphitheater. The amphitheater is carved out of a natural basin in the
The canyon has been a special place for
people for. The first inhabitants, prehistoric nomads,
wandered into the park approximately 12,000 years ago in
search of mammoth, giant bison and other large game animals to
hunt. When the Europeans came to the shores of this country,
Apache Indians lived in the canyon. They were driven out by
Comanche and Kiowa tribes who in turn were forced to leave for
reservations in Oklahoma by the
westward movement of American settlers in 1874. The story
goes that very little actual fighting occurred, The army just
captured and destroyed the tribes horses. Without their horses
the Indians could not survive and allowed themselves to be
transported. A memorial to Quanah Parker, the Comanche chief at
the time of the removal, in the park.
|Bust of Quanah Parker
Two years later, Charles Goodnight, the
canyon's first white settler arrived at the canyon and built a
ranch in partnership with John Adair. In its day, his JA Ranch
encompassed over a million acres. It still remains a working
ranch today but is only a fraction of its original size. Near
the park entrance there is a replica of the dugout used by
Goodnight when he first arrived at the canyon and a few longhorn
|A hoodoo formation
This should top your bucket list of places
to visit. Don't leave home without your camera. You will want it
close at hand here.