In terms of size and grandeur, Palo Duro Canyon is second in the United States onlyto Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Carved by the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River, the canyon is 20 miles across at its widest point, 1,100 feet down at its deepest. Palo Duro means “hard wood,” referring to the junipers in the canyon. Rock formations here date back more than 900 million years, and it’s easy to find dinosaur fossils inThe First
We visited here 4 days during November & December 2010. Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States. The hiking is wonderful. Even my 2 year old did well. My kids enjoyed the small wooden playset where we picniced one day. The kids were thrilled by the swingset that had 6 swings. My kids thought it was great that there was a swing for each of them. Too bad on our return trip here in December one of the 6 swings was broken :(
We spent one night in the Good Night cabin on the canyon rim. It was an amazing experience. The cabin is rustic and comfortable. We were able to sit out at night and see more stars than I've ever seen before in my life. My 5 year old daughter and I got up early, went up on the rooftop and watched the unrise while snuggled up in our big blankets. We had coats on too... it was Dec afterall.
The second largest canyon in the United States is just south of Amarillo, just outside of Canyon, Texas.
Palo Duro Canyon was found by the early conquistadors as they marched across the Llano Estacado (or "staked plains"). The explorers used stakes in the ground to help them identify where they were and where they were going. Native Americans had been using the canyon for centuries before the region was settled.
For my kids, history is cool, but splashing in the water-crossings is even more fun. We opted to visit the canyon later in the evening. The reason for this choice is based on the temperature in the canyon. If the surface temperature is 100 degrees, then the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon is 110 degrees. That's not a temperature I'm willing to play around with. As we entered the canyon, the rim temperature was 96 degrees, but sunset was coming so we felt we were okay. Especially, since we were purposefully going down to play in the water crossings.
Canyons like the Grand Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon are caused by two elements: wind and water. Erosion of the surrounding formations over millions of years has created the canyons we know today. My favorite crossing is the last (#6) because the water level is typically the highest here. But it's also the one that gives the greatest opportunity to teach about the affects of erosion via water.
Recently the canyon received a significant rainfall (including hail), causing the entire canyon to shut down. The further down you are, the more water (and danger) you'll encounter if a freak shower comes across. Folks were stranded in the canyon for at least 12 hours while crews worked with backhoes and bulldozers to remove the sediment that had rushed across the roads. A word to the wise - always be cautious of the weather while visiting the canyon. That includes being properly hydrated, sunscreen and bug repellent.
Our night visit provided us with many unique fauna sightings. On our way down, we just happened to see a tarantula crossing the road. While the kids and I were playing in the water, my husband saw a coyote crossing the road up ahead of us, and while we were driving out, he saw a snake cross the road. Be warned: there's wildlife out here!
The good thing about Palo Duro is that you can drive into it. We drove down to the sixth water crossing and jumped out of the car. I was about to let my kids do the unthinkable: play in the street! But when it's a street covered with a stream, who can argue? We sprayed ourselves down with bug spray to deter the biting flies that live in the canyon. It helped, some, but those guys are mean! As the kids and I played we got to talking about the water current and how the temperature changed based on where we were standing. I was eager to keep my kids talking and playing, but I was also mindful to listen for cars. They're pretty easy to hear, but slow-moving kiddos should play in the sand bogs just off the road. On really hot summer days - waiting for cars to drive by and splash you is just the thing!
My family loves to visit the canyon. We hike, play and picnic within its walls. As a college student, I even scaled the cliffs to stand on flat-ground, looking down into a massive hole in the ground. I call the canyon "The Inverted Mountains" because it's just a beautiful to me as any view of the Rockies. I'm glad I got to share this tradition with my kids!
Palo Duro Canyon is a wonderful family outdoor experience There are historic structures built in the 1930's by the Civillion Conservation Corps. The hiking and horseback riding are excellent. The "Big Texan Dinner" and the "TEXAS" play are spectacular. This is a very family friendly park and there is also a very abundant supply of wildlife on site. From turkeys to deer.
It is pretty hot and anyone thinking about hiking should bring plenty of water.