Monday, April 5, 2021

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

The initial part of this post is a discussion of geography because Palo Duro Canyon and the Red River which formed it, are very confusing. Wikipedia says that Palo Duro Canyon is 120 miles long with an average width of six miles and a depth of about 820 feet. It reaches a width of 20 miles in places and a depth of 1,000 feet in places. It is the second largest canyon in the U.S. and is sometimes known as the Grand Canyon of Texas. 

However, comparisons can be deceiving. According to Wikipedia, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long (more than twice as long), up to 18 miles wide (closer) and up to 6,093 feet deep (not even a close comparison). What puts Palo Duro in second place is the length, not the depth. Hells Canyon in Idaho and Oregon is 7,993 feet deep (deeper than the Grand Canyon), up to 10 miles wide, but only about 40 miles long. Black Canyon of the Gunnison River is 48 miles long, 2,077 feet deep, and 1,100 feet wide at its narrowest point. Palo Duro Canyon pales by comparison Hells Canyon and Black Canyon of the Gunnison in awe and majestic beauty, but that said, Palo Duro is still a very beautiful canyon. 

One of the confusing aspects of Palo Duro is that Palo Duro Canyon State Park covers only about 7 miles of the canyon, yet it is very difficult to find anything written about the other 113 miles. For example, is Caprock Canyons State Park, another park we visited further south, a part of Palo Duro Canyon (a later post on that - but, no)? 

Palo Duro Canyon was formed by Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River. Judy and I drove south on Hwy 207 from Claude to Silverton and passed through Palo Duro Canyon southeast of the State Park. At the bottom of the canyon we crossed over a large river (without a lot of water in it) on a bridge with a sign that said, "Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River Overlook." I thought there must be a prairie dog town nearby and I was looking for it all the way up to the other side of the canyon where we stopped at an overlook. I considered going back to find it. It was only later that I learned that "Prairie Dog Town Fork" is part of the name of the river and has nothing to do (at least as far as I know) with a prairie dog town in that location. 
The red circle surrounds Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The two blue lines are on the north and south rim of Palo Duro Canyon where we crossed it on Hwy 207. The white line in between is Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River. 
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River is formed at the confluence of Tiera Blanca Creek and Palo Duro Creek 1.8 miles northeast of Canyon, Texas (we stayed in Canyon which is about 20 miles south of Amarillo and the gateway to Palo Duro Canyon State Park). 
From Wikipedia
Palo Duro Creek comes in from the northwest and Tierra Blanca Creek comes in from the southwest. The newly formed river is impounded behind a dam which creates Lake Tanglewood, to the northeast of Canyon, then it heads to the southeast, with a jagged jog, to what is now Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which can only be entered from the west by a road from Canyon. 
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River continues in a southeasterly direction through southern Armstrong County and northeastern Briscoe County (which are difficult to discern from the typical map) where it exits Palo Duro Canyon and starts across Hall County where it merges with the Red River. Ultimately the Red River forms the boundary line between Oklahoma and Texas and part of the boundary between Arkansas and Texas and now, for the first time, I understand why the Texas and Oklahoma football game is called the "Red River Rivalry." 

We attempted to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park on a Saturday afternoon and were denied entry because all of the day-use permits had been sold. So we delayed our journey south the next morning to try again and were successful getting in. Unfortunately we had just enough time to drive the road through the canyon and out again - no opportunity to hike and get to know it better. 
We arrived at an overlook at sunrise. 

We saw several white-tailed deer in the canyon. 

Some Rio Grande turkeys.

And some mule deer just outside the park near the rim. 

The State of Texas has four Texas longhorn cattle herds preserved in four state parks. Palo Duro Canyon is one of them. These are cattle from that herd found along the rim. 

We didn't get to spend much time in Palo Duro Canyon as I would have liked, but I appreciated that we were able to spend some time. 

1 comment:

  1. Great information at the beginning. It really helps clarify things for me because I was very confused. It's a beautiful canyon, but it didn't seem remotely close to the Grand Canyon in size.