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Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

11450 Park Road 5
Canyon, TX 79015
(806) 488-2227

Welcome to Palo Duro Canyon State Park

The park is located about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. From Amarillo, take Interstate 27 south to State Highway 217, and go east 8 miles.

The canyon is approximately 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. Extending from Canyon to Silverton, Palo Duro Canyon was formed primarily by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, which began to carve the canyon less than one million years ago. The slopes of the canyon reveal the colorful natural history of the area.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park consists of 16,402 acres in Armstrong and Randall Counties. In 1933, private owners deeded the land to the State of Texas. From 1933 until 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) sent six companies of young men and military veterans to Palo Duro Canyon to develop road access to the canyon floor as well as the visitor center, cabins, shelters, and the park headquarters. Palo Duro Canyon State Park that officially opened on July 4, 1934.

Man has inhabited Palo Duro Canyon for approximately over 12,000 years ago, the Clovis and Folsom people first resided in the canyon and hunted large herds of mammoth and giant bison. Later on, other cultures such as the Apaches, Comanches, and Kiowas utilized the canyon's abundant resources.

Early Spanish Explorers are believed to have discovered the area and dubbed the canyon Palo Duro which is Spanish for "hard wood" in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees . An Anglo did not officially discover the canyon until 1852 when Captain Marcy ventured into the area while searching for the headwaters of the Red River.

In 1874, Palo Duro Canyon was a battle site during the Red River Wars. Col. Mackenzie, under orders from the US Government, apprehended the Native Americans residing in the canyon by first capturing 1,400 horses and then later destroying the majority of the herd. Unable to escape, the Native Americans surrendered and were transported to reservations in Oklahoma.  Col. Charles Goodnight operated, from 1876 until 1890, most of the canyon belonging to his J.A. Ranch.

Dating back 250 million years, the oldest layers of rock, Cloud Chief Gypsum, can only be seen in a few areas in the canyon. The next oldest and most prominent layer of rock is the Quartermaster Formation which can be seen with its distinctive red claystone / sandstone and white layers of gypsum. The Tecovas Formation is located directly above the Quartermaster and is composed of yellow, gray, and lavender mudstone and sandstone. 

Together with the Quartermaster, they form the colorful triangular slopes called Spanish Skirts. Above the Tecovas, the Truijillo and Ogallala formations can be viewed. The Ogallala is composed of sand, silt, clay, and limestone, which compose the hard caprock.

Due to diverse habitats, Palo Duro Canyon contains many species of wildlife including the rare Texas Horned Lizard, and Palo Duro Mouse. Other species include wild turkey, white tail and mule deer, barbary sheep, coyotes, cottontail rabbits, roadrunners, and western diamondback rattlesnakes. 

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is known for its rustic charm, and for that very reason, we would like to encourage visitors not to feed the wildlife. On the canyon rim, longhorn steers which are a part of the official Texas State Longhorn Herd, may be viewed from the main road.

While in the park, stop by and enjoy our Visitor Center located on the Canyon Rim. This rustic native stone building was constructed by the CCC in 1934 and houses a Museum and Museum Store. The store is located in the Visitor Center and features books, potter, jewelry, and educational items pertaining to the Canyon.

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