CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK
Wind and water over the eons shaped the rugged beauty of Caprock Canyons State Park in the Panhandle of Texas. Today, bison roam the plains, bats roost in Clarity Tunnel, and you can explore 90 miles of trails.
Powerful natural processes created the parks steep and colorful canyons and bluffs.
The park sits along the Caprock Escarpment, a long, narrow rocky formation as high as 1,000 feet. The escarpment is a natural transition between the flat, high plains of the Llano Estacado to the west and the lower Rolling Plains to the east.
Streams flowing east from the Llano Estacado descend to the lower plains through the Caprock Escarpment. There they join the Red, Brazos and Colorado rivers.
Water making its way to the Little Red River has exposed geologic layers in the park down to the Permian age Quartermaster formation formed about 280 to 250 million years ago. These layers are commonly referred to as red beds, thanks to the red tones of the shales, sandstones, siltstones and mudstones. Each geologic age has different colorations, with shades of red, orange and white.
Caprock Canyons State Park is home to the Texas State Bison Herd. Bison roam over 10,000 acres in the park.
Famed cattleman Charles Goodnight and his wife Mary Ann started the herd in 1878. It is one of the five foundation herds that saved this animal from extinction.
Several Native American cultures made their homes in the scenic canyons here. This includes the Folsom culture more than 10,000 years ago.
Paleolithic hunters, associated with the Plainview culture, lived here from 9,000 to 8,000 years ago. Only slight traces of these people have been found.
Hunting and gathering cultures emerged as the climate became drier. They dined on smaller animals and plants. The Archaic period lasted from 8,000 to 2,000 years ago. Artifacts from this period include boiling pebbles for heating food, grinding stones for processing seeds, oval knives, and corner-notched or indented dart points.
Arrow points and pottery appeared during the Neo-Indian state. In the latter part of this period, 800 years ago until the Spaniards arrived, groups established permanent settlements and grew some crops. They traded Alibates flint for pottery, turquoise and obsidian from the Puebloan groups to the west.
Anglos arrived after 1874. Settlers organized counties and established ranches.
Famed cattleman Charles Goodnight moved cattle into Palo Duro Canyon in 1876. In 1882, he bought vast areas of land for John G. Adair. This land became the noted J. A. Ranch. The current park land was part of the purchase.
The railroad extended into this area in 1887. By 1890, the town of Quitaque, population 30, was a regular stage stop.
More settlers arrived in the early 1900s seeking suitable farm land. Most of the broken country, however, remained ranch land.
Most of the land that lies within park passed through the hands of several owners after Adair. Theo Geisler purchased the land in 1936. He died on Aug. 15, 1969.
The state purchased the land in 1975, and named the park's Lake Theo after Geisler.
Caprock Canyons State Park opened in 1982. It is 100 miles southeast of Amarillo in Briscoe County. The park has 15,313.6 acres, including the 1,217-acre Trailway.
Stay overnight in the park or at primitive campsites along the Trailway.
Set up camp anywhere alongside the Trailway, but make sure you are within park boundaries.
Camping fee is $12 per site, per night.
A maximum four people can camp at a site.
Pay at a self-pay station for one-night stays.
Pay at headquarters for multinight stays.
No campfires allowed.