Panhandle Plains




The northernmost area of Texas is called the Panhandle. It is straight and narrow like the handle of a pan with the broader area of the state below it, like the bottom of a pan.





This region has mostly flat, grassy land or plains. These plains are part of the same flat grassland that extends from the Great Plains of the Central United States. Sometimes this land is also called the Llano Estacado or “Staked Plains.” The land is mostly treeless and is on a high, flat plateau. The eastern part of the Panhandle is not quite as flat. It is lower in elevation and called a rolling plain. There is more rainfall in this eastern half and it is brushy.

The western and eastern parts of the Panhandle region is strikingly divided by deep canyons carved by rivers and their tributaries that wind their way through this area.


Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyons State Parks are in this region. The remarkable canyons were carved by rivers. They are sometimes called "inverted mountains" since the land is relatively flat until you reach the long and steep canyons in the ground.

Learn about the wildlife and history of this area!

Topography and Characteristics

Major Rivers: Red, Pecos, Canadian, Colorado and Brazos.
Major Aquifer: Ogallala, Seymour, Nacotoch, Alluvium, Cenozoic, Pecos, Edwards-Trinity
Size: 81,500 sq. mi.

The Panhandle goes from gently rolling hills to rough and dissected with canyons. This area forms the southern end of the Great Plains. Soils vary from coarse sands along streams, to clays and shales. The soil is neutral to slightly alkaline. Caliche (kah-lee-chee), soil mixed with chunks of calcium carbonate, generally is found two to five feet under surface soils.

Major Cities / Rainfall / Elevation

Regional Average Rainfall: 15-28 in./yr
Data source: National Climate Datat Center, U.S. Dept of Commerce.

Abilene - 23.78 in / 1,790 ft
Amarillo - 19.716 in / 3,586 ft
Borger - 21.984 in / 3,140 ft
Boys Ranch - 18.18 in / 3,191 ft
Brownwood - 28.32 in / 1,385 ft
Clarendon - 23.89 in / 2,700 ft
Lamesa - 19.07 in / 2,965 ft
Lubbock - 18.69 in / 3,254 ft
Memphis - 22.51 in / 2,090 ft
Midland - 14.80 in. / 2,862 ft
Muleshoe - 17.37 in / 3,825 ft
Paducah - 24.11 in / 1,900 ft
Perryton - -20.88 in / 2,942 ft

Common Vegetation

Plains cottonwood
Honey mesquite
Bur oak
Peach-leaf willow
Western soapberry
Mtn. mahogany
Prairie crabapple
Eastern red cedar
Silver agarita
Fragrant sumac
Prickly-pear cactus
Narrow-leaf Yucca
Sideoats gramma
Coral honeysuckle
Teddy-bear cholla
Texas poppy-mallow


Common Wildlife

Mule deer
Swift fox
Prairie dog
Pinyon mouse
Swainson's hawk
Black-capped vireo
Great horned owl
Burrowing owl
Interior least tern
Snowy plover
Pronghorn antelope
Thirteen-lined ground squirrel
Plains hognose snake
Western diamondback rattlesnake


Learn more about these animals on our Wildlife Fact Sheets.

Rare Animals & Habitats

Black-footed ferret
Palo Duro mouse
Texas kangaroo rat Concho water snake

Learn more about Endangered and Threatened Species.