Out of a everlasting high prairie: Palo Duro Canyon

December 25, 2015 - Picnic Time

  • Capitol Peak during Palo Duro Canyon, seen in a stretch from a Lighthouse Trail on Aug. 20, 2015. Photo: John Tedesco /San Antonio Express-News

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CANYON — Driving opposite a immeasurable flatness of a Texas panhandle, you’ll see plantation fields and blockade posts and not many else.

The high level has a possess kind of sheer beauty, though it’s also a perspective that seems like it will never end. Which is since Palo Duro Canyon State Park is such a pleasant surprise.

The park is southeast of Amarillo not apart from Interstate 27, and on a approach there’s a glance of what’s to come: clearly out of nowhere, a smaller Timbercreek Canyon is manifest out a automobile windows, revelation we that you’re close.


Palo Duro is a second largest ravine complement in a U.S., reaching 800 feet deep. It’s 120 miles prolonged and 20 miles wide, creation it second usually to a Grand Canyon in size.

It’s believed to have been inhabited for 10,000 to 15,000 years. But for many of history, few people had ever seen a canyon.

Until recently, we hadn’t famous many about Palo Duro Canyon, either. Our initial too-brief revisit a integrate years ago had been done on a humour — a discerning stop on a cross-country highway outing — to see what this apart state park was all about. Mainly, we wanted to let a kids lax from a backseat for a integrate of hours.

After staring during farms and ranches for so long, we drank in a overwhelming view, where it seemed that all of geologic time was laid out in layers of red, yellow, gray and brown.

On this initial stop, a caller core circuitously a park’s opening gave us a ambience of a abounding story of Palo Duro. How it was a retreat to a Comanche and site of a tribe’s final cat-and-mouse battles in 1874 opposite a U.S. Army, led by Col. Ranald Mackenzie. Two years later, a country Charles Goodnight, a former Texas Ranger, gathering Longhorn cattle to a canyon.

We knew we had to come behind to do this place justice. That’s accurately what we did a year later, kids in tow.

We came prepared this time by job forward and creation a reservation for dual nights during one of a 4 country “Cow Camp” cabins built in 1933 on a ravine floor by a Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era module that assembled roads and buildings that exist during a park today.

A accessible park ranger named Beverly gave us a keys to Cabin No. 4 — a best one for families, she positive us, since of a additional space and overwhelming view. She noted a track map display family-friendly hiking routes. And she gave us Junior Naturalist Program books for a kids to learn some-more about a canyon. Answer adequate questions about a park and we acquire a Palo Duro patch, also famous as a Holy Grail for a 4- and 6-year olds.

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If we go

Getting there: Palo Duro Canyon is a prolonged expostulate from any vital Texas city so leave early. It’s about 500 miles from San Antonio, depending on your route. One choice is holding Interstate 10 to Junction, streamer North on U.S. 83 by a Texas Hill Country and holding a mangle during a smashing Main Street Soda Fountain griddle in Ballinger. From there we conduct to Sweetwater, Snyder, and Lubbock, where we can get on Interstate 27 and expostulate north for a final leg of a trip.

Calling ahead: Cabins can be indifferent adult to 330 days forward of time by job 512-389-8900. Campsites can be reserved online.

What to bring: Make certain you’re prepared for an outward adventure. There’s no celebration H2O on a trails so we have to move your own. Know your limits. Sun insurance and bug mist are also a must. If we stay in a cabin, we have to move your possess pillows and linens. The Trading Post on a cabin building sells food, reserve and firewood if we forget something. Also move a printed map for a trails and for a highway outing in box we remove use on your dungeon phone. Which we will.


Beverly’s recommendation was sound. Each cabin comes with a tiny fridge, kitchen table, fireplace, a heater and atmosphere conditioner, and a queen-sized berth bed (which was a prominence of a outing for a daughter, since luckily, railings on a tip berth make it protected for kids). We had copiousness of space for a luggage, and a area around a cabin gave a kids room to run around. There was also a cruise table, H2O faucet and griddle outside.

We had to move a possess pillows, linens and sleeping bags for a beds. The bathrooms and showers were a brief travel divided during a circuitously stay site. Unexpected bonus: There was prohibited H2O in a showers, so staying in a cabins frequency counted as roughing it. Each cabin costs $60 a night, a discount deliberation a unrestricted perspective of a sunset.

We unpacked after a prolonged expostulate and headed to a trade post, that has simple groceries, a present emporium and a griddle that’s obvious for a glorious hamburgers. Around a dilemma from it, a track led to a willing bird blind.

The store also sells firewood and marshmallows, though we hadn’t brought any firewood along, and we can’t collect it in a park. That night we had to hunt a automobile for bits of paper, a card cookie boxes and a like, to get a glow going that would final prolonged adequate to enjoy. Next time, we’ll be improved prepared.

Palo Duro Canyon’s angled cliffs and unconditional vistas were forged over millions of years by a Prairie Dog Town Fork of a Red River, that still flows by a park.

It’s tough to suppose how a muddy, tiny rivulet could have forged a canyon. But a day before we arrived, a singular deluge had flooded a park, shutting trails and reminding everybody of a energy of water.

The subsequent morning, it was time to explore. Our thing is jogging and hiking, and there are miles of trails available.

We saw hawks forever circling, trees filled with vultures and furious turkeys in a brush. Our kids scrambled over boulders like towering goats and took turns being a line personality on hikes.

The park has some-more than 30 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Visitors can also geocache, investigate inlet or bird watch. A high cavern on a southern corner of a park was a child magnet.

In a summer, there’s an outward low-pitched called “Texas,” though a family highway outing missed a finish of that season.

Most people know about a Lighthouse Trail, a six-mile travel to one of Palo Duro’s many engaging features, Lighthouse Rock. We brought lots of H2O and hiked partial of a trail, holding lots of beef jerky breaks with a kids.

But we also detected a comparatively new Comanche Trail that wasn’t on a map. It was one of a jogging highlights of a trip. We wore out a kids during a day, afterwards took turns in relaxing during a cabin with them while we any had a good track run before sunset, jogging by ancient and fascinating stone formations.

That’s a extraordinary thing about Palo Duro — we can try a geologic facilities adult close. All it takes is a circuitous expostulate to a ravine floor, something we can’t do during a Grand Canyon.

The book “Roadside Geology of Texas” by Darwin Spearing gave a outing additional meaning, as it explains in easy-to-understand denunciation how Palo Duro Canyon came to be — a triangular slopes call Spanish Skirts, or a arrangement of hoodoos, vast rocks offset atop a smaller base.

While scarcely 5 million people revisit a Grand Canyon any year, apart fewer revisit Palo Duro, that is called “Grand Canyon of Texas.”

Still, during a state’s many new mercantile year, some-more than 354,000 people visited Palo Duro, creation it a third many renouned park in a Texas complement — and a favorite.

jtedesco@express-news.net

source ⦿ http://www.mysanantonio.com/lifestyle/travel-outdoors/article/Out-of-the-never-ending-high-prairie-Palo-Duro-6713824.php

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