Friday, June 26, 2009

Palo Duro Canyon State Park/Texas

Although most people in the United States have heard of The Grand Canyon, probably a much smaller number could tell you what is the SECOND largest canyon in the U.S., not to mention, being able to say they had actually visited the place. It was for that reason that I put a trek to Palo Duro Canyon on my "To Do" list of furture expeditions. I first heard of it back in the last century when some friends of mine moved to where it is located, near Amarillo, Texas. Then when I found out the canyon is the home of a summertime, outdoor musical , I narrowed down my time frame for a visit, to coincide with dates during which the outdoor drama is in production. (The drama, called "Texas" will be the subject of a future blog post). Palo Duro Canyon is not only the second largest canyon in the U.S., it is the second largest state park in Texas. It is 120 miles long and 800 feet deep. It has a rich history, with the first known human inhabitants to be Native American people, of the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne tribes. The settlement of white people in the area brought about the Red River Wars, which ultimately drove off the native Americans to reservations to Oklahoma.
Palo Duro is Spanish for hard wood, in reference to the Rocky Mountain juniper trees found in the canyon. Other abundant species include mesquite, cottonwood, salt cedar, and willow. Exhibits on the cattle ranching aspect of Palo Duro, as well as cross-sectional cuts of the local trees, native American pottery, historic photographs, etc., can be viewed in the park's museum (lower left). There are also strategically-placed "picture windows" for taking in the scenic surroundings, while at the same time listening to videos that give details about this area of the Southern High Plains (lower right). Shopaholics will be relieved to know there is even a gift shop adjacent to the museum where one can find quality pottery, jewelry, books, videos, CD's, clothing, and snacks. The museum/gift shop is located in The Coronado Lodge (upper photos) that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. The museum has an exhibit about the CCC, and examples of furniture they built, as well as photos of the work in progress. History buffs will remember that the CCC was formed during The Great Depression of the 1930's, so you can do the math to figure out that Palo Duro Canyon will be celebrating its 75th anniversary of first opening to the public on July 4, 1934, next week. And if you like a bargain, try visiting on July 4 and July 5, and you will receive free admission, in recognition of the 75 year anniversary!
Recreational opportunities abound throughout the park---hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, water crossings, motorcycling, wildlife viewing,and picnicking. There are several shaded campgrounds scattered throughout, that can accommodate all types of recreational vehicles. The small, white "dots" in upper left photo, are RV's, almost completely hidden from view, due to the thick vegetation left standing throughout the campgrounds. In addition, there is tent camping, backpacking, and equestrian camping. The two lower photos are examples of some of the other structures built by the CCC, and four such structures are available for overnight rental. Reservations for overnight facilities can be made by phoning 512-389-8900.
I was pleased to see an ad in the program of the Texas outdoor drama, inviting folks to Sunday worship services in the canyon, at 9 am, every Sunday, June thru August, at the Old West Stables. It is a ministry of the First Baptist Church of nearby Canyon,Texas. The ad read "Welcome to the largest church in the world---where the sky is our ceiling, the four corners of earth are the walls, and we have the whole outdoors to praise and worship God.!" The worship leader will find no shortage of Bible verses that have the word "rock" in them, as my Bible concordance lists at least 19 separate references. However, the verse that kept coming to my mind as I looked at the beautiful stone walls throughout the canyon was the one that says if people don't lift up their voices to praise the Lord, the rocks themselves will declare His praises! Hopefully, you will get outside this weekend, and look at the beauty that surrounds you! If you want to find out more about visiting the place described in this blogpost, phone 806-488-2227 or go to for 120 "miles of smiles"! Tricia Posted by Picasa