Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Palo Duro Canyon/ Texas

Palo Duro Canyon is a perfect addtion to a west Texas vacation. The canyon is located in the Texas Panhandle 27 miles southeast of Amarillo. It's open to visitors, offers a lot of facilities and is a great side trip for the family. During the warmer months this state park also features musicals in their amphitheater. A Broadway style production called "Texas" is scheduled each evening during the summer and is great fun for the whole family.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is an excellent historic addition to your Texas vacation planner.

Palo Duro Canyon is noted as the second largest canyon in the United States. It's often times referred to as the Grand Canyon of Texas. The canyon has camping facilities and over 120 miles of hiking trails. There is a vast array of beautiful fauna and flora and is home to the rare horny toad, an endangered species.


palo duro canyon trip
Palo Duro Canyon Visitors Center
The history involved with the canyon is tremendous and particularly during the old west days, the early cattle ranching era and the time of the Indian wars on the southern plains. Palo Duro Canyon was in what many referred to as Comancheria. In the early days of Texas, Comancheria included just about everything west of a line from Waco to San Antonia. This was an area where the Comanches traversed often. The canyon is not too far southwest of the then Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, and because of this there was a lot of movement back and forth. Palo Duro was also an active buffalo hunting ground which added to it's importance.


The area borders the Caprock Escarpment line of Texas which is where the terrain changes dramatically east to west. The Comanche Indians erected lodges in the area for among many things because of the measure of protection it offered against the elements. West of there was a flat tableland where protection against the bitter weather was nonexistent. The canyon was also home to the buffalo.

Col Ranald Mackenzie
Palo Duro Canyon was the site of a battle between Col. Ranald Mackenzie's cavalry and the last of the Comanche non reservation warriors led by war chief Quanah Parker, a half-breed Indian leader. The battle took place during the late summer of 1874. Quanah Parker ended up surrendering and eventually settled on the reservation at Ft Sill, OK.


After the Indian wars in Texas concluded, the cattlemen were the main driving force on the prairie. The cattle wereas driven from south Texas all the way north to Dodge City, KS, mostly over the Great Western Trail. Dodge City was a bustling cattle rail head which attracted every character imaginable. Palo Duro Canyon was the site of a large ranch owned by the famous cattleman, Charles Goodnight. Goodnight was one of the largest cattleman in north Texas next to the massive XIT Ranch. As a side note, the town of Goodnight located just north of the canyon and east of Amarillo on US-287 is named after him. You would pass through Goodnight as you drive from Witchita Falls, TX to Amarillo. The canyon is a Texas state park and on the National Register of Historic Places.


This particular side trip is full of picture taking opportunities as well as a chance to step back in time to the old west.


To learn more about Palo Duro Canyon I recommend pulling up the websites:   


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