Although we had decided to stay at Canyon, TX, because we wanted to see Palo Duro Canyon, we really didn’t know what we came to see. Palo Duro Canyon has been described as the Texas Grand Canyon. The Road Trip USA book calls Palo Duro Canyon “one of the most beautiful places in all Texas.”
So Monday we made the trip, about 12 miles from our RV park, east on State Route 217. From the end of TX 217, a well-paved road passes a Visitor Center, then winds down a 10% grade to a 15-mile loop trip following (and crossing six times) the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.
There are a number of nice campgrounds suitable for RVs in the canyon, and next time through this area, we’ll be in one of them.
Palo Duro Canyon stretches over 100 miles, and the canyon walls reach as high as 1200 feet. The river has carved all this from essentially flat plains country, but it took the river several million years to do it. Coronado and company were the first Europeans to lay eyes on the canyon, and numerous Plains tribes, including Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche later took refuge here.
Refuge? A lot of good it did them. In 1874, the U.S. Cavalry, under Colonel Ranald McKenzie, attacked an Indian camp in the canyon. When he realized his tactics were faulty, he ordered the Indian camp and supplies burned. He captured 1400 horses and later slaughtered over a thousand of them. Having lost half their horses and all of their shelter and supplies, the Indians drifted back to their reservations, totally disheartened and broken in spirit.
Later. cattlemen such as Charles Goodnight, whom we have mentioned a couple of times recently, developed ranches in the canyon. Goodnight, partnering with John Adair, formed the JA Ranch, which became one of the largest cattle operations in the world, with more than a million acres of land, and grazing more than 101,000 cattle. In the canyon but outside of the present-day state park, the JA Ranch continues as one of the great ranches of Texas.
This is a replica of a "dugout" cabin Charlie Goodnight used in the canyon while developing his spread.
Take a look at the pictures. We won’t try to narrate, but we may make a comment here and there. We hope you’ll enjoy Palo Duro Canyon as much as we did!
Following the road down the 10% grade.
This is the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. It is still carving the canyon, but very slowly.
This formation is called
This spire is called the Lighthouse. It is the image one always sees in postcards and pamphlets about Palo Duro Canyon. There is a six mile trail one can hike to get a better close-up view of the Lighthouse, but we chose not to take it.
We hope you've enjoyed these few pictures of Palo Duro Canyon. Stop by some day and we'll show you about 100 more!
Oklahoma is the next stop on ... Our Life on Wheels.