11450 Park Road 5
Canyon, TX 79015
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
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
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
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
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
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.