Friday, February 26, 2021

The Palo Duro Canyon by Bea Tifton

Caroline Clemmons is a bit under the weather, so I'm filling in for her today. 

Most people in the United States have heard of the Grand Canyon. But did you know that the second largest canyon in the U.S. is in West Texas?

For 12,000 years, humans have been in the Palo Duro Canyon, beginning with the Clovis and Folsom people who hunted mammoths and bison through the area.The Apache, the Comanche, and the Kiowa also inhabited the canyon, which was named Palo Duro, or “hard wood,” by the Spanish explorers. 

One tragic episode in the history of the Palo Duro Canyon is the Battle of Palo Duro, the defining battle of the Red River War (June 1874 to spring 1875). A group of Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes were hiding in the canyon.  At dawn on September 28, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie led his 4th U.S. Calvary in a surprise attack. The Native Americans fled further up into the canyon, leaving behind their horses and all their belongings.  The U.S. troops captured 1,400 ponies, shooting most of them. The soldiers burned the encampment, leaving the tribes with no supplies or food. The surviving families were forced to return to their reservation. 

 In 1878 Charles Goodnight drove 1,600 longhorn cattle to the Palo Duro Canyon. Goodnight and his partner, John Adair, founded the J.A. Ranch in 1877.  Cornelia, Adair’s wife, took over as partner when Adair died in 1885.  In 1887, the partnership ended because Goodnight began to pare down his ranching responsibilities. The partners divided the land, and until 1890, most of the Palo Duro Canyon belonged to the J. A. Ranch. Descendants of John and Cornelia Adair still run the J.A. Ranch today.

In 1933, the state of Texas bought the Palo Duro Canyon. Men from the Civilian Conservation Corp, the program created by Franklin D. Roosevelt to give people jobs during the Great Depression, began work on the park. They build the CCC Trail, the road to the canyon floor, then the El Coronado Lodge,

which is the current day Canyon Gallery and Visitor Center, and several cabins. Today, the Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the second largest state park in the United States, encompassing approximately 28,000 acres.



Texas: The Musical is a popular attraction with music, dance, fireworks, and special effects.  People come from all over the world for the experience of watching the historical musical in the open air theater. 

The rules for the state park are few: Don’t remove artifacts from the park, don’t bother the wildlife, and keep the park clean. It’s a breathtaking area of the state with a rich archeological and geological history. 


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