Spectacular color. I noticed this as I walked through the many scenic spots of the Palo Duro Canyon. Rock formations called Spanish skirts looked like bans of reds, oranges, and yellows on the flowing, twirling skirts of traditionally dressed senoritas. Red hues of endless rocks contrasted brightly against the blue Texas sky. Patches of green vegetation added a splash of brightness to the canyon walls. Pillars of rocks stood like tall monuments worn from water, wind, and rain showing off horizontal white stripes against red.
Silence. I heard no hum of traffic or loud, annoying conversations droning on cell phones. The only sounds came from the wind, the crunch of my footstep on a rocky trial, and the occasional startling gobble-gobble of a wild turkey. This was the sound of silence.
The best $5 I spent recently paid my admission to this colorful, quiet place - the Palo Duro Canyon State Park south of Amarillo, Texas. The Palo Duro Canyon stretches 120 miles long and 20 miles wide, reaching depths of 600 to 800 feet. Acclaimed as America’s second largest canyon, it hardly gets the attention garnered by the Grand Canyon (277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 6,000 feet deep). Perhaps that’s a good thing. If news of the Palo Duro Canyon reached the masses, I suspect the cost would go up, driving access to the canyon would be limited, and the tranquility would diminish.
According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife brochure, Palo Duro Canyon formed less than 1-million years ago when the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River carved through the Southern High Plains. As the water cut a path, it revealed colorful layers of rocks dating to be 250 million years old and panoramic views.
Visitors can explore the canyon by mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, and driving. Travelers can plan an overnight stay in a rental cabin, pitch a tent, or navigate an RV down the canyon road. Had I researched this park in advance of our arrival in Amarillo, I would definitely have opted to bring our coach here. As it turned out, I arrived in the Toyota. And we had already paid for a week’s stay in town where the Internet signal showed four bars and my favorite store Chico’s offered sale prices.
The Palo Duro Canyon would have provided a relaxing contrast to the suburban setting of Amarillo. Camping here will have to wait for another time when passing through. The Canyon will wait for my return; after all, it waited 1-million years for my arrival.
April 16, 2009
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
11450 Park Road 5
Canyon, TX 79015