Palo Duro Canyon
Overview
 
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon
Canyon
A canyon or gorge is a deep ravine between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river. Rivers have a natural tendency to reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into. This forms a canyon. Most canyons were formed by a process of...

 system of the Caprock Escarpment
Caprock Escarpment
The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

 located in the Texas Panhandle
Texas Panhandle
The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

 near the city of Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city, by population, in the state of Texas, the largest in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The population was 190,695 at the 2010 census...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. As the second largest canyon in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, it is roughly 193 km (119.9 mi) long and has an average width of 10 km (6.2 mi), but reaches a width of 32 km (19.9 mi) at places. Its depth is around 250 m (820.2 ft) but in some locations it can increase up to 304 m (997.4 ft). Palo Duro Canyon has been named "The Grand Canyon of Texas," both for its size and for the dramatic geological features, including the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa
Mesa
A mesa or table mountain is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape....

 walls similar to those in the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, the 15th national park in the United States...

.

The canyon was formed by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River is a sandy-braided stream about long, formed at the confluence of Palo Duro Creek and Tierra Blanca Creek, about northeast of Canyon in Randall County, Texas, and flowing east-southeastward to the Red River about east of the 100th meridian, south-southwest of...

 which initially winds along the level surface of the Llano Estacado
Llano Estacado
Llano Estacado , commonly known as the Staked Plains, is a region in the Southwestern United States that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas, including the South Plains and parts of the Texas Panhandle...

 of West Texas
West Texas
West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semi-arid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas....

 then suddenly and dramatically runs off the Caprock Escarpment
Caprock Escarpment
The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

.
Encyclopedia
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon
Canyon
A canyon or gorge is a deep ravine between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river. Rivers have a natural tendency to reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into. This forms a canyon. Most canyons were formed by a process of...

 system of the Caprock Escarpment
Caprock Escarpment
The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

 located in the Texas Panhandle
Texas Panhandle
The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

 near the city of Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city, by population, in the state of Texas, the largest in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The population was 190,695 at the 2010 census...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. As the second largest canyon in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, it is roughly 193 km (119.9 mi) long and has an average width of 10 km (6.2 mi), but reaches a width of 32 km (19.9 mi) at places. Its depth is around 250 m (820.2 ft) but in some locations it can increase up to 304 m (997.4 ft). Palo Duro Canyon has been named "The Grand Canyon of Texas," both for its size and for the dramatic geological features, including the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa
Mesa
A mesa or table mountain is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape....

 walls similar to those in the Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, the 15th national park in the United States...

.

The canyon was formed by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River is a sandy-braided stream about long, formed at the confluence of Palo Duro Creek and Tierra Blanca Creek, about northeast of Canyon in Randall County, Texas, and flowing east-southeastward to the Red River about east of the 100th meridian, south-southwest of...

 which initially winds along the level surface of the Llano Estacado
Llano Estacado
Llano Estacado , commonly known as the Staked Plains, is a region in the Southwestern United States that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas, including the South Plains and parts of the Texas Panhandle...

 of West Texas
West Texas
West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semi-arid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas....

 then suddenly and dramatically runs off the Caprock Escarpment
Caprock Escarpment
The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

. Water erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

 over the millennia has shaped the canyon's geological formations.

Notable canyon formations include caves and hoodoos. One of the best known and the major signature feature of the canyon is the Lighthouse Peak. A multi-use six-mile round trip loop trail is dedicated to the formation. The middle portion of the trail can be hot with little shade, and hikers should take plenty of water.

The painter Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American artist.Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists...

 who lived in nearby Amarillo
Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city, by population, in the state of Texas, the largest in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The population was 190,695 at the 2010 census...

 and Canyon
Canyon, Texas
Canyon is a city in Randall County, Texas, United States. The population was 12,875 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Randall County. It is the home of West Texas A&M University and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is some twelve miles east of Canyon...

 early in the 20th century, wrote of the Palo Duro: "It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color."

History

The second evidence of human habitation of the canyon dates back approximately 10,000–15,000 years, and it is believed to have been continuously inhabited to the present day. Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 were attracted to the water of the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River is a sandy-braided stream about long, formed at the confluence of Palo Duro Creek and Tierra Blanca Creek, about northeast of Canyon in Randall County, Texas, and flowing east-southeastward to the Red River about east of the 100th meridian, south-southwest of...

, as well as the consequent ample game, edible plants, and protection from weather that the canyon provided.

The first European explorers to discover the canyon were members of the Coronado expedition
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado y Luján was a Spanish conquistador, who visited New Mexico and other parts of what are now the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542...

, who visited the canyon in 1541. Apache Indians lived in Palo Duro at the time, but they were later displaced by Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

 and Kiowa
Kiowa
The Kiowa are a nation of American Indians and indigenous people of the Great Plains. They migrated from the northern plains to the southern plains in the late 17th century. In 1867, the Kiowa moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma...

 tribes, who had the advantage of owning horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s brought over by the Spanish. They had contact with traders in nearby New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, called Comancheros.

A United States military team under Captain Randolph B. Marcy
Randolph B. Marcy
Randolph Barnes Marcy was a career officer in the United States Army, achieving the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1881. Although beginning in 1861 his responsibilities were those of a brigadier general, the U.S...

 mapped the canyon in 1852 during their search for the headwaters of the Red River. The land remained under American Indian control until a military expedition led by Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Ranald S. Mackenzie
Ranald S. Mackenzie
Ranald Slidell Mackenzie was a career United States Army officer and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, described by General Ulysses S. Grant as its most promising young officer...

 was sent in 1874 to remove the Indians to reservations in Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

. The Mackenzie expedition captured about 1,200 of the Indians' horses and destroyed them in nearby Tule Canyon. Demoralized and denied their main weapon and source of livelihood, the Comanche and Kiowa conceded and left the area.

Soon after, in 1876, Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight, also known as Charlie Goodnight , was a cattle rancher in the American West, perhaps the best known rancher in Texas. He is sometimes known as the "father of the Texas Panhandle." Essayist and historian J...

 established the JA Ranch
JA Ranch
The JA Ranch, jointly founded by John George Adair and Charles Goodnight, is the oldest privately owned cattle ranch in the Palo Duro Canyon section of the Texas Panhandle southeast of Amarillo. At its peak size in 1883, the JA, still run by descendants of the Adair family, encompassed some of...

 in Palo Duro Canyon. Over the next half century, the canyon remained in private hands, but was an increasingly popular tourist spot for local residents. In 1934, the upper section of the canyon was purchased by the State of Texas and turned into the 20000 acre (8,093.7 ha) Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Amarillo is the largest city near Palo Duro Canyon State Park, but the smaller city of Canyon
Canyon, Texas
Canyon is a city in Randall County, Texas, United States. The population was 12,875 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Randall County. It is the home of West Texas A&M University and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is some twelve miles east of Canyon...

 is nearer.

In the Frontiersman Camping Fellowship
Frontiersman Camping Fellowship
The Frontiersmen Camping Fellowship is a program of the Royal Rangers, and serves as their service/honor organization, similar to the Boy Scouts of America's Order of the Arrow. It endeavors to develop in each member the same courageous and undaunted spirit of the early frontiersman...

 of Royal Rangers
Royal Rangers
Royal Rangers is a worldwide ministry of the Assemblies of God and is designed to provide youth with challenging activities while providing them with Christian instruction. Royal Rangers International is open to participation of both boys and girls, while the US only allows boy participation in...

, the West Texas District is known as the Palo Duro Chapter because of the importance of the canyon in the history of the region.

Geology

Palo Duro Canyon itself was downcut
Downcutting
Downcutting, also called erosional downcutting or downward erosion or vertical erosion is a geological process that deepens the channel of a stream or valley by removing material from the stream's bed or the valley's floor. How fast downcutting occurs depends on the stream's base level, which is...

 by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River is a sandy-braided stream about long, formed at the confluence of Palo Duro Creek and Tierra Blanca Creek, about northeast of Canyon in Randall County, Texas, and flowing east-southeastward to the Red River about east of the 100th meridian, south-southwest of...

, a tributary of the Red River, during the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

, when the whole region was uplifted. Most of the strata visible in the Canyon were deposited during the Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 and Triassic
Triassic
The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

 periods. From oldest to youngest, the formations are as follows:
  • Quartermaster Formation: Permian in age, this comprises the red, lower slopes of the Canyon. This layer was deposited in a shallow marine environment that alternated with dry tidal flats, indicated by ripple marks
    Ripple marks
    In geology, ripple marks are sedimentary structures and indicate agitation by water or wind.- Defining ripple cross-laminae and asymmetric ripples :...

     and gypsum
    Gypsum
    Gypsum is a very soft sulfate mineral composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O. It is found in alabaster, a decorative stone used in Ancient Egypt. It is the second softest mineral on the Mohs Hardness Scale...

     evaporite
    Evaporite
    Evaporite is a name for a water-soluble mineral sediment that result from concentration and crystallization by evaporation from an aqueous solution. There are two types of evaporate deposits, marine which can also be described as ocean deposits, and non-marine which are found in standing bodies of...

     deposits, respectively.

  • Tecovas Formation: Part of the Dockum Group
    Dockum Group
    The Dockum is a Late Triassic geologic group found primarily on the Llano Estacado of western Texas and eastern New Mexico with minor exposures in southwestern Kansas, eastern Colorado, and Oklahoma panhandle. The Dockum reaches a maximum thickness of slightly over 650 m but is usually much...

     with the Trujillo Formation, this multicolored Triassic unit consists of shale
    Shale
    Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering...

    , siltstone
    Siltstone
    Siltstone is a sedimentary rock which has a grain size in the silt range, finer than sandstone and coarser than claystones.- Description :As its name implies, it is primarily composed of silt sized particles, defined as grains 1/16 - 1/256 mm or 4 to 8 on the Krumbein phi scale...

    , and sandstone
    Sandstone
    Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

    . Deposited in streams and swamps, its colors indicate varying oxidizing conditions, and the alternating dry / wet cycles typical of such environments. These rocks are fossiliferous, containing the remains of phytosaur
    Phytosaur
    Phytosaurs are an extinct group of large semi-aquatic Late Triassic archosaurs. Phytosaurs belong to the family Phytosauridae and the order Phytosauria. They were long-snouted and heavily armoured, bearing a remarkable resemblance to modern crocodiles in size, appearance, and lifestyle, an example...

    s, amphibians, and fish
    Fish
    Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

    .

  • Trujillo Formation: This Triassic formation is harder than the underlying Tecovas, and forms many of the Canyon's ledges. Composed of coarse sandstone, river cross-bedding
    Cross-bedding
    In geology, the sedimentary structures known as cross-bedding refer to horizontal units that are internally composed of inclined layers. This is a case in geology in which the original depositional layering is tilted, and the tilting is not a result of post-depositional deformation...

     indicates deposition in a stream environment. Fossils are rare.

  • Ogallala Formation: This late Miocene
    Miocene
    The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

     to early Pliocene
    Pliocene
    The Pliocene Epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 2.588 million years before present. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch...

     unit forms the cliffs and ledges at the very top of the Canyon. Composed of sandstone, siltstone, and conglomerate
    Conglomerate (geology)
    A conglomerate is a rock consisting of individual clasts within a finer-grained matrix that have become cemented together. Conglomerates are sedimentary rocks consisting of rounded fragments and are thus differentiated from breccias, which consist of angular clasts...

     eroded from a late Cenozoic
    Cenozoic
    The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and...

     uplift of the Rocky Mountains
    Rocky Mountains
    The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

    , it is separated from the lower Trujillo Formation by a disconformity, and a very long hiatus. Fossils of saber-toothed cats (Smilodon
    Smilodon
    Smilodon , often called a saber-toothed cat or saber-toothed tiger, is an extinct genus of machairodonts. This saber-toothed cat was endemic to North America and South America, living from near the beginning through the very end of the Pleistocene epoch .-Etymology:The nickname "saber-tooth" refers...

    ), bone-crushing dogs (Borophagines
    Borophagus
    Borophagus is an extinct genus of the subfamily Borophaginae, a group of canids endemic to North America from the early Miocene epoch through the Zanclean stage of the Pliocene epoch 23.3—3.6 Mya. Borophagus existed for approximately .-Overview:Borophagus, like other borophagines, are loosely...

    ), mastodons, horses, long-necked camels (Aepycamelus
    Aepycamelus
    Aepycamelus is an extinct genus of camelid, formerly called Alticamelus which lived during the Miocene 20.6-4.9 Ma existing for approximately ....

    ), rhinoceros
    Rhinoceros
    Rhinoceros , also known as rhino, is a group of five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to southern Asia....

    es, and tortoises are present in the Ogallala.

See also

  • Battle of Palo Duro Canyon
    Battle of Palo Duro Canyon
    The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon was a significant United States victory that brought about the end of the Red River War.-Background:Ever since the summer of 1874 the Comanches, Cheyenne and Kiowas had sought refuge in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle. There they had been stockpiling food and...

  • Blanco Canyon
    Blanco Canyon
    Blanco Canyon is a canyon located in the U.S. state of Texas. Eroded by the White River into the Caprock Escarpment on the east side of the Llano Estacado, the canyon runs for in a southeasterly direction, gradually widening from its beginning in southwestern Floyd County to across at its mouth...

  • Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
    Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
    Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway is a Texas state park on the Caprock Escarpment in Briscoe County, Texas, United States, approximately southeast of Amarillo...

  • Caprock Escarpment
    Caprock Escarpment
    The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...


  • Double Mountain Fork Brazos River
    Double Mountain Fork Brazos River
    The Double Mountain Fork Brazos River is an ephemeral, sandy-braided stream about long, heading on the Llano Estacado of West Texas about southeast of Tahoka, Texas, flowing east-northeast across the western Rolling Plains to join the Salt Fork, forming the Brazos River about west-northwest of...

  • High Plains
    High Plains (United States)
    The High Plains are a subregion of the Great Plains mostly in the Western United States, but also partly in the Midwest states of Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota, generally encompassing the western part of the Great Plains before the region reaches the Rocky Mountains...

  • Llano Estacado
    Llano Estacado
    Llano Estacado , commonly known as the Staked Plains, is a region in the Southwestern United States that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas, including the South Plains and parts of the Texas Panhandle...

  • Ogallala Aquifer
    Ogallala Aquifer
    The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States...


  • Texas State Highway 207
    Texas State Highway 207
    State Highway 207 or SH 207 is a state Highway that runs from the Texas/Oklahoma state line south through the Texas Panhandle, ending in Post. The highway was originally designated between 1933 and 1936 between Floydada and Ralls. By 1939, the designation was extended north to Silverton and south...

  • Yellow House Canyon
    Yellow House Canyon
    Yellow House Canyon is a canyon that is about long, heading in Lubbock, Texas, at the junction of Blackwater Draw and Yellow House Draw, and trending generally southeastward to the edge of the Llano Estacado about east of Slaton, Texas; it forms one of three major canyons along the east side of...

  • Yellow House Draw
    Yellow House Draw
    Yellow House Draw is an ephemeral watercourse about long, heading about north of Morton, Texas, and tending generally east-southeastward across the Llano Estacado to the city of Lubbock where it joins Blackwater Draw to form Yellow House Canyon at the head of the North Fork Double Mountain Fork...

  • West Texas
    West Texas
    West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semi-arid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas....



External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK