After being in the cold and flat Amarillo landscape, we decided to move on. But to where? We saw signs pointing to Palo Duro Canyon so we decided to go there. Not sure what we would find. Less than an hour from Amarillo we entered the State Park. Not much to see….yet. We paid our $24 a night plus $5 a day for each adult to enter the park. A bit expensive for a State Park. When Marc came back to the truck he said they gave us a sight as far in the canyon as you could drive. Ok that sounded interesting. Well I must say this place was nothing less than breathtaking. Well worth the money. We drove down 800 feet into the most amazing views!
This canyon was formed less than a million years ago by the Red River carving its way through the Southern High Plains. These rocks expose a geologic story with their colorful layers. Bright red claystone with stripes of white gypsum can be found on the oldest layers. Then come lavender, gray and yellow mudstone in the next layer. Sandstone and coarse gravel come next. And then sand, silt, clay and limestone.
Palo Duro which is Spanish for hard wood refers to the Rocky Mountain juniper trees found in the canyon. There are also mesquite, cottonwood, salt cedar, willow, western soapberry and hackberry trees. Wildflowers and grasses also grow here.
While we were in the canyon we did not encounter and animals, but we did see evidence of several. A couple we met from Ohio told us about rabbits, deer and pigs. We did see a few birds. Marcus and Caroline had fun doing a Junior Naturalist Program at the park. On the way out of the park we did see several deer.
There were only a few camp hosts and two other camper spending the night, but many people used the park during the day to hike, bike or ride horses. The first day we hiked about four miles. The second day we decided to hike to the Lighthouse (the most famous rock formation in the park.) This formation was created by erosion and is 310 feet tall. We are so glad we made the effort to complete the 6 mile round trip hike. The pictures can’t even come close to capturing the beauty of this canyon. Even Cloe enjoyed herself.