|While it may be the second largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo is bigger than it looks. From outstanding naturally-rugged landscapes to a unique outdoor amphitheater where a compelling Broadway-style production is staged each summer evening, the area is marked with attractions both natural and man molded.
Imagine hiking and rafting deep desert canyons by day and attending first class stage performances under the beautiful starry Texas sky at night. You can in the heart of West Texas where a hidden treasure of outdoor recreational opportunity awaits, and an artistic theatrical production that rivals the best of Broadway.
It all happens in magical Palo Duro Canyon, often called the Grand Canyon of Texas. Even though the canyon is a little less than half the size of the Grand in length and depth, it is a remarkable and rather unexpected sight in West Texas.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and to mark the occasion the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum has created a special exhibition highlighting the parks colorful history. The exhibition covers the creation of the park, its geological significance, the history of Native Americans and the enduring legacy of ranching on the wild Texas frontier. And the exhibition wouldn't be complete without the history of TEXAS LEGACIES - the outdoor musical presented by the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation.
"Palo Duro Canyon: Then and Now" will run through July 16th at the Pan-Handle Plains Historical Museum.
Rugged Outdoor Fun
Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers active travelers great opportunities for exploration with over 120 miles of trails, camping areas and nature centers to discover. Whether you like to hike, bike, raft, ride horseback, or perhaps just sit and enjoy the view, there is an activity for everyone to enjoy in the canyon.
The event calendar for the park is varied and Park Rangers do a fine job of organizing events for all interests. You might try an interpretive history hike and learn about the history of the canyon, view its beautiful scenery and observe it's unique wildlife. If you're really lucky you might even spot the rare Texas horny toad. While most Texans over the age of 50 can say we saw them in abundance as a kid, they are now sadly an endangered species.
The canyon is also full of interesting and unique flora and fauna - some that can only be found this area.
Perhaps one of the most popular canyon activities takes place at night. Even though the canyons' daytime views are impressive, when the sun sets and the moon rises, the beauty of the canyon and the Texas night sky leave you awestruck and nearly speechless. The park offers night time hikes and astronomy evenings where participants are able to receive instruction and use of world-class telescope and equipment. Viewing the night sky deep in the heart of the canyon will be a memory you won't forget.
There are many options for lodging as well, including RV sites in the park with full electrical hookup, water, paved parking areas, a firering, and a picnic table. Some offer shade shelters. So popular is the park as an RV destination that there are actually three RV areas within the park, each sporting a restroom and shower facility.
The fee for camping runs $20/per site and includes up to 2 vehicles and 8 people for each site. It is recommended to call ahead during the TEXAS musical theater season to check for site availability.
In conjunction with the parks 75th anniversary, TEXAS the musical outdoor drama is celebrating its 37th birthday. This unique outdoor production portrays the historical romance of the American West and the settlement of Texas in the 1800's.
For years the theater has entertained and educated thousands of fellow Texans and world travelers with its outstanding productions. This year, in honor of its 37th birthday, artistic director Bruce Lumpkin will produce The Best of TEXAS, a combined creative vision of former artistic directors and the evolution of the production to its present state.
It's no small production with state-of-the-art lights, sound, special effects and over 120 performers and actors making it an impressive Broadway-style production.
Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the production is the Palo Duro Canyon Outdoor Epic Theater itself. There are comparable outdoor theaters like it in the world. With the canyon walls serving as the backdrop and stage for the production, it is guaranteed to be a sensational experience. As Lumpkin says "You may leave emotional, proud or humbled, but you will certainly leave with a deeper understanding of why Texans are proud to be called Texans."
This special production will run for one season only for a total of 58 performances. The official season opens June 2 and will run through August 19. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. A good old fashioned Texas barbeque dinner is included before the performance. It is recommended to plan ahead for this very special production and reserve your tickets well in advance.
So pack the RV and head west this summer to check out the Jewel of the Texas Pan Handle, Palo Duro Canyon, the Palo Duro Canyon Outdoor Epic Theater, and the fantastic production of TEXAS!