Palo Duro Canyon sneaks up on you! As you drive eastward from Interstate 27, the High Plains spread to the horizon on either side of Highway 217. And, just before entering the Park, some hint of what is to come is seen in a small side canyon, Timbercreek Canyon, to the right (south) of the highway where ledges of caliche lie over steep- walled cliffs of Ogallala sandstone. But, it is not until you have paid your entrance fee and driven to the overlook that Palo Duro Canyon's size, depth, and color suddenly appear before you.

The Lighthouse

The topography of the canyon is especially important to weather forecasters. When moisture from the Gulf of Mexico returns to the higher elevations of the Texas Panhandle, the moisture rises about 1,000 feet as it gets funneled between the canyon walls from southern Armstrong County to the entrance of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The exact extent of this phenomina requires further investigation. The canyon is highly suspected as a moisture route and its impact on the regions precipitation and fog climatology remains a mystery.
Palo Duro means "hard wood" in Spanish, named for the canyon's junipers from which Indians made their "hardwood" bows.
Before becoming a state park, Palo Duro Canyon had a rich history, including 12,000 years of Indian occupation. The Spanish explorer Coronado saw the canyon in 1541, and while leading a U.S. army expedition, Captain Randolph Marcy wrote admiringly of it in 1852. The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1874 pitted Colonel Ranald Mackenzie's troops against Comanche warriors, ending the so-called Red River War. Only two years later, Charles Goodnight, famous for spearheading Texas-Wyoming cattle drives, began his JA Ranch operation in the canyon. Panhandle citizens' interest in Palo Duro Canyon as a recreation and picnic area led to a failed attempt to make it a National Park, but succeeded in the creation of the crown jewel of the Texas State Park System in 1934.
For more information visit the Palo Duro Canyon web site. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.