Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Palo Duro Canyon

Every once in a while we come across a place that surprises us with it's unexpected beauty. After driving through the flat plains of Texas surrounding Midland, Odessa, and Big Spring, a short drive off the main highway brought us to the edge of a huge canyon with colorful cliffs and magical rock formations. Located just south of Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located in the northern portion of this huge canyon, 120 miles long, and as much as 800' deep - said to be second in the country only to the Grand Canyon for it's size. We spent two enjoyable days exploring the park and watching wildlife. At the entrance gate, we checked in and then visited the park's two native longhorn cattle, appropriately named Biscuits and Gravy. That's the dainty and quite feminine Gravy pictured. After a sporty mile and half drive down a 10% grade, we drove eight miles through the canyon to one of the campgrounds with electric and water hookups where we had plenty of space and great views. Looking around, it's hard to believe you're in northern Texas; the canyon makes you think you're in Arizona or southern Utah. Throughout the park, overlooks provided sweeping vistas of the colorful canyon walls and magnificent rock formations. This state park is a huge operation; there is a large outdoor theater, horse riding concession, gift shop/grill, and extensive visitor center. We saw a wide variety of wildlife; white tail deer, wild turkey, and even desert bighorn sheep. Our favorite were the turkey; they were everywhere and acted more like domestic chickens than the wild and wary birds in other areas. All it took was a handful of bird seed to have your very own turkey visiting each day. We watched this handsome tom turkey as it courted one of the many females in his harem. Although we're not well versed in turkey expressions, she seems to have the "oh no, not again!" look. It was a memorable experience to sit and watch as the flock meandered about, not affected at all by us as we sat and watched.
Our visit to Palo Duro Canyon was one that we'll remember for a long time. Through the years, we passed through Amarillo on I-40 and never knew this wonderful park was so close by; we're glad we finally stopped to visit and encourage you to do the same if you're in the area. We're continuing our northbound journey to Montana - please stop by again and see how we're doing!

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