Palo Duro Canyon, South Texas

Texas – Jan. 28 thru Feb. 18

We drove south out of San Antonio heading for Corpus Christie and Jan’s friends from Colorado.  We stayed in an RV Park in Fulton which is about 15 miles east of Corpus.  Nice park, but crowded with winter residents.  The next morning we drove to Port Aranus to visit Marla and Jim Miles out on Mustang Island.  They own two RV parking sites in a very nice, windy park just off the beach.  They took us on a tour of South Corpus and the north end of Padre Island.  If you are ever in Rockport, TX, dinner at Charlote Plummer’s is a seafood delight!

Next day we drove south to the Rio Grande Valley, our warm winter designation.  We stayed at a park in La Feria for a few days and toured the area around Harlingen and the south Texas Coast.  Port Mansifield was interesting from the standpoint of a remote Gulf Coast town.  It was very remote and was primarily a salt water fishing town.  The area is mostly produce crop farming although as you got closer to the coast line the real southern Texas land became visible, prickly pear cactus and Mesquite bush.  I doubt that goats could even survive on it.  Further south we reached Port Isabel and could see South Padre Island from our restaurant on the bay.  Looked promising for further exploration.

Our next stop for a few days was Breeze Lake Campground east of Brownsville.  The campground was nice with a beautiful lake; however, it was overcrowded with campers parked almost on top of each other (mostly short term campers).  We spent the next day touring South Padre Island and drove north on the Island to the end of the road (about 10 miles).   The upper end of the road was mainly for surf fishing and sun bathing.  The lower part of the Island is very built up with beautiful high rise hotels and condos along the ocean and a lot of tourists.  We did enjoy a great shrimp dinner on the south end of the Island and again a delicious seafood buffet on the Island with our friends Ronnie and Nancy Miller.

With a two night stop in Mission, TX just west of McAllen, we spent one day on a trip to Progresso, Mexico.  It was way overcrowded, too many hawkers on the crowded walkways and the military guarding the border with machine guns including 50 caliber guns in sand bag revetments.  With all that’s going on with the drug wars along the borders, it wasn’t a good place to be.  We left Misson for Falcon Lake the next day with the intent of staying a week there.  However, that was curtailed by a blooming bush called the ‘Weezak’.  I usually don’t have problems with alergies, but the pollen of the thousands of blooming ‘Wezaks’ did me in.   My sinus swelled up like a balloon and I was coughing constantly.  I couldn’t sleep at night and had to set upright to get any rest.  Falcon Lake was beautiful and was formed by damming the Rio Grande river.  The border between US and Mexico is in the middle of the lake causing a lot of border patrols through the State campground.  The campground was very nice with full hookups available and ample room.  Too bad I couldn’t have enjoyed it.

After three nights, I couldn’t handle it anymore and we move on to Zapata to a campground where Earl and Opal Moss, Hoxie friends of Jan’s were staying. The campground is located at the upper end of Falcon Lake and is very popular with boaters and fishermen.  We stayed in the park for five nights and toured the local area.  The weather was nice and warm in south Texas and that is about all the good I can say about it.

We drove north on Highway 83 back toward home.  Highway 83 goes all the way from Harlingen, TX north through Oklahoma, Kansas (just 20 miles west of Hoxie), Nebraska, South and North Dakota and into Canada.  Its mostly two lane roads, but we like to travel those instead of the freeways when we are not in a hurry.  You get to see a lot more country and what the towns are like that way.

The first night on the road we found that there were not a lot of campground oportunties along Highway 83 so we found a campground about 20 miles west in the city of San Angelo.  I must say that the Spring Creek Campground there was the most beautiful and pleasant campground of the entire trip .  It was a privately owned campground in the middle of a huge city park along a large lake just south of the city.  Our camp site was at the edge of the lake and although the sites were closely spaced, the scenery was beautiful.  I could have stayed for several days there and except for the cooler climate would be a nice winter camping area.

The next day we drove on north to Canyon, TX with the intent of spending a day in the Palo Duro Canyon.  It was well worth the trip.

Palo Duro Canyon from the Lodge and Gift Shop just under the rim.
Palo Duro Canyon from the Lodge and Gift Shop just under the rim.

The canyon is a Texas State Park just below Amarillo, TX.  They call it the Grand Canyon of Texas and I must admit is was really grand.  What was so unusual was the terrain leading to the canyon.  A few miles west of the entrance is the Texas Panhandle plateau, almost flat ground as far as the eye can see.  Then as you travel east all of a sudden this gorgeous multi-colored canyon opens up below you.  We stopped at a view point on the plateau and just below us on the side of the cliff was a large stone gift shop, informative center (all about the canyon) and a lodge for guests.  The view above was from the parking lot.

But the best still waited for us as the road lead us off the side of the rim and down into the canyon itself.  The state has built a 16 mile drive at the base of the canyon so you can really enjoy the beauty and the colors of it.

The various colors of the sediment layers were beautiful
The various colors of the sediment layers were beautiful

There were at least four RV campgrounds on the floor of the canyon some with full hookups and most with separated pads each with a shelter, a campfire pit and some with charcoal grills.  Very nice camping facilities.  Each of the campgrounds also had toilets and showers.

Stone cabins with full utilities
Stone cabins with full utilities

There were even some stone cabins called “Cow cabins”, some with water, fireplace, restroom and even airconditioning.  These could be rented although they didn’t have maid service!  We were there in the off season which is usually from April to October so there were almost no one camping except for a few campground hosts.  As we drove into one of the campgrounds we saw a young doe eating nuts below a tree in one of the vacant campsites.  We watched her for quite awhile and took pictures of her and then as we were driving on by a herd of wild turkey walked out of the woods and went to the deer, then over to the truck expecting a handout.

Multi-colored hills    sculpted by erosion
Multi-colored hills sculpted by erosion

The variety of sediment through the millinea has provided unusual colors as the wind and water eroded the canyon walls.  There are layers of greys and white which were ash layers deposited when the Rocky Mountains were still volcanic.  The floor of the canyon is mostly sparse grass, junipers, cactus, mesquite and cottonwoods along the creek that runs down through the canyon.  The creek which often turns into a flood has over time eroded the canyon.

A side canyon with      orange brown colors
A side canyon with orange brown colors

The continuing beauty of the canyon almost takes your breath away at times.  There are also all kinds of trails through out the various side canyons and the canyon floor.  You can walk, ride bikes and on some of the trails ride horses.  Horses are available for rent.  Several of the most photographed parts of the canyon including the pinicle and castle were too far off the road for us to do in one day.  But it does make you want to return sometime and stay for awhile to enjoy the entire canyon.  It’s only a day away from Hoxie!

The bright oranges, browns, violets continue through the canyon
The bright oranges, browns, violets continue through the canyon

This is just sample of the beauty that does exist in Texas.  If you ever get a chance to visit this area don’t pass up a day in Palo Duro Canyon.

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3 thoughts on “Palo Duro Canyon, South Texas”

  1. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  2. I used to live in the Rio Grande Valley. Hearing your travelogue made me want to go back to visit and especially hit the beach.

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