Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Grand Canyon of Texas

When Coronado's expedition was traveling across what is today the Texas Panhandle, they were exploring a flat prairie. I can only imagine their surprise to find a beautiful canyon cut into the arid, level landscape by a river. Today we call the river the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. We call the Canyon Palo Duro.

A view from the floor of Palo Duro Canyon

This natural wonder located to the south of Amarillo and just east of the town of Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, the largest being Arizona's Grand Canyon. Formed by erosion of 240-million years, Palo Duro Canyon was home to people since prehistoric times, as the attraction of the river's water and its sheltering walls made it appealing as a habitat. The walls of the canyon are over 800 feet high, and it is home to a wide variety of indigenous flora and fauna.

A view from the top

Today visitors to Palo Duro Canyon can enjoy a variety of activities, from exploring fossils of extinct life forms, to a presentation in an amphitheater, to riding a chuck wagon train into the canyon for a cowboy breakfast.

When people think of Amarillo, they often think of the Big Texan Steak House or the Cadillac Ranch. I prefer the natural beauty of Palo Duro Canyon. It is a place you must see if you enjoy geology, history, or just the artistry of the forces of nature.

Yet another view from the top of the canyon

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