7,837 Acres Added to Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov

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AMARILLO, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has arranged to purchase 7,837 acres in Armstrong County to be added on the southeast side of Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

The new property includes the site of Maj. Gen. Ranald Mackenzie’s battle with native tribes in 1874 in Palo Duro Canyon.

Sometimes called the Grand Canyon of Texas, Palo Duro Canyon State Park currently contains about 18,400 acres. The new acquisition will increase park acreage by almost 43 percent to more than 26,200 acres, making it the second largest currently operating Texas state park after Big Bend Ranch State Park.

“Palo Duro is a priority park for expansion in our agency’s Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “Thanks to the stewardship of the family that cared for this land so well and so long, and to the support of the Amarillo Area Foundation, we can protect some outstanding natural and cultural resources and expand wilderness recreation opportunities.”

The purchase was made possible with a $300,000 grant from the Amarillo Area Foundation, which also provided funds to add the 2,036-acre Cañoncita Ranch to the state park in 2002. Amarillo-area businessman, philanthropist and conservationist Pete Gilvin bequeathed the Cañoncita Ranch to the foundation in his will. His generosity also made possible a unique $1.19 million endowment set up in connection with the Cañoncita acquisition to fund ongoing educational programs and maintenance at the state park.

“This new property is contiguous to the former Canoñcita Ranch on the northwest side, and that’s one reason we thought it was something Pete Gilvin would want us to support, since we’re making this grant out of the Gilvin fund,” said Jim Allison, Amarillo Area Foundation president. “To get this kind of property into the park, adjacent to Canoňcita, is a rare opportunity, and it adds to the quality of life in this region. It’s a very scenic area, and someday people are going to be very glad this deal was made.”

The family of Ed Harrell has owned the property for close to a century.

“This is truly a wilderness area,” said Wales Madden, former Amarillo Area Foundation president. Madden was asked to help facilitate the acquisition by bringing all of the parties together.

“To the credit of the Harrell family, they really took care of nature on their ranch in the way they protected their trees and grasses,” Madden said. “The rangeland in the canyon bottom is in fine shape thanks to them. As a family, they were anxious for the public to be able to share that property’s natural beauty and fascinating history from now on, with no commercial development in view.”

The new property is not yet open to the public, and access will remain restricted until appropriate plans are developed within the next year or two. Because of the property’s environmentally sensitive and historically important features, natural and cultural resource inventories must be completed before work can start on a public use plan. The ultimate goal is to provide appropriate public recreation and education opportunities in the new part of the state park.

Ranald Mackenzie was a decorated Union military leader in more than a dozen major Civil War battles. After the war, he was assigned to control Native American tribes in the southwest, and for a time led black regiments known as Buffalo Soldiers at various posts, including Fort McKavett, now a state historic site. In 1874, he began the final campaign against Texas High Plains tribes, including the Palo Duro Canyon battle. By June 1875, the High Plains campaign was over, and Mackenzie assumed command at Fort Sill, Oklahoma over the Comanche-Kiowa and Cheyenne-Arapaho reservations.

For more information, anyone may phone Palo Duro Canyon State Park at (806) 488-2227 or see the park Web site.

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