Armstrong, Randall
Panhandle Plains
Palo Duro Canyon Texas State Park
Palo Duro Canyon State Park Information:
Note that in 2008, the park grew an additional 2,912 acres through the purchase of Kim and Brenda Gaynor’s Fortress Cliffs Ranch, bringing the total park acreage to 29,187, until TPWD voted in 2012 to sell 2,014 acres of the Fortress Cliffs Ranch to the Sooter Ranch of Perryton. The 6 miles of additional cliffs help protect the original parkland from sights of unwanted development. The Fortress Cliffs Ranch is located 15 miles southeast of Amarillo, and shares 7 miles of boundary with the park. Ranch facilities include buildings, a 3 acre lake which was recently deepened for livestock watering and was stocked with bass, and the intermittent Tub Springs located on the canyon rim. The springs drain into the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. It is currently unknown when this additional land will open to the public. The original 26,275 park acres were donated to the state by the landowners in 1933. The state park opened to the public in 1934. The park is located in the northern portion of the 120 mile long Palo Duro Canyon. Portions of the canyon are 20 miles wide and 600 feet deep. The canyon is second in size to the Grand Canyon which is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 6,000 feet deep. The Palo Duro Canyon was formed by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Human habitation in the area dates back 12,000 years. Early settlers were nomadic tribes that hunted mammoth, bison, and other large game. Apache Indians lived in the canyon until they were replaced with the Comanche and Kiowa Indian tribes who resided in the area until 1874 when Colonel Mackenzie and the 4th Cavalry defeated them by capturing almost 1,400 of their horses. Cut off from transportation, the Indians surrendered. In 1876, Charles Goodnight established his Palo Duro Ranch, the first Anglo ranch established in the area. Later he formed a partnership with John G. Adair and expanded his ranch into the jointly owned JA Ranch. The JA Ranch grew to more than a million acres grazing over 100,000 head of cattle. It was on this ranch that Goodnight and his wife Mary preserved the Palo Duro Canyon bison. He operated the JA Ranch until 1887 when the partnership ended. Adair retained the ranch which his heirs still operate today on a much smaller scale; a Texas Historical Marker is in place within the park boundaries. The Palo Duro Canyon is located on the southern high plains, an area called El Llano Estacado (staked plains). The rim of the Canyon is considered part of the short grass prairie, but the canyon floor offers more moisture and supports some medium and tall grasses, sideoats grama, big bluestem, Indian blanket, star thistle, fragrant Suma, and mesquite and cottonwood trees. Park wildlife includes the rare Texas Horned Lizard, the Palo Duro Mouse, wild turkey, white-tailed and mule deer, Barbary sheep, coyotes, cottontail rabbits, roadrunners, and the western diamondback rattlesnake. A portion of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd may be viewed grazing on the rim of the park. Visit during May and June when the park roads are lined with blooming spiderwort, Texas thistle, yucca, Indian blanket, and Mexican hats. Park entrance and camping fees apply. For more park information read the Park Brochure, and watch the Park Video and the Annual 24 Hours Biking Challenge Video.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park Facilities Map
Palo Duro Canyon State Park Trails Map 
Palo Duro Canyon State Park Interactive Map of Trails 
Palo Duro Creek & Palo Duro Canyon:
The creek rises in western Deaf Smith County and flows east forty-five miles into central Randall County, where its junction with Tierra Blanca Creek near Canyon, Texas forms the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Palo Duro Canyon forms at this junction at the headquarters of the 1877 T Anchor Ranch. The creek's upper portion was part of the XIT Ranch's' Escarbada Division. In western Randall County the stream is dammed to form Bivins Lake, a main source of water for the city of Amarillo.
Official Texas State Longhorn Herd:
In 1936, Fort Worth businessman Sid Richardson believed Texas was about to lose the Texas Longhorn. He believed the longhorns were closer to extinction that the buffalo. He discussed this issue with Texas Historian J. Frank Dobie of Austin, Texas. The two reached an arrangement to establish a Texas State Longhorn herd. Richardson would provide the funding and Dobie would find and select the longhorns. Dobie enlisted the help of longtime cattle detector, rancher and longhorn raiser, Graves Peeler. They traveled throughout South Texas selecting 20 head. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department volunteered to protect and preserve the herd. The longhorns were initially placed at Lake Corpus Christi State Park. Richardson then asked Dobie and Peeler to locate another herd. It was difficult to find more quality longhorns. Dobie and Peeler had to drive hundreds of miles on both sides of the Rio Grande River. By the end of 1942, they had located a few more and these were placed at Lake Brownwood State Park. By 1948, the longhorns had been removed from Brownwood and Christi State Parks. Twenty one longhorns had been relocated to Fort Griffin State Park (now Fort Griffin State Historic Site), and the remaining longhorns were sold. The longhorns have been one of Fort Griffin’s greatest assets, attracting visitors from all over the world. Since 1948, Fort Griffin has been the official home and manager of the herd. Fort Griffin places longhorns in other state parks for exhibition, range management, and breeding purposes. Currently, portions of the herd are located at Copper Breaks State Park, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and San Angelo State Park. Big Bend Ranch State Park has a longhorn herd that is part of its legacy, but their herd is not a part of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park Directions:  
From Canyon, travel 12 miles east on SH 217. From Amarillo, take IH-27 to SH 217, then travel east 8 miles.