Coming Full Circle: The History of Caprock Canyons State Park
February 10, 2017
As I crested the canyon walls a stiff wind kicked up to greet me. The scramble up the red rock surface was rewarded with panoramic views stretching as far as the eye could see. As though I had stepped back in time, I thought to myself this is what it must have been like millennia ago. Untouched and rugged terrain matched only by the beauty of the landscape, this could be the same view that the first humans saw when they initially came to the area.
The earliest remnants show that the first humans moved into the red rock bluffs of Caprock Canyon more than 10,000 years ago. These first Native Americans consisted of hunters and gatherers that flourished on the plentiful wildlife in the area. Artifacts have been found from these Paleolithic People to include boiling pebbles for heating food, oval knives, and spear points. This way of life lasted until the first Europeans came into the picture more than 800 years ago.
The first Europeans to enter into the canyons were Spaniards led by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado in 1541. It was then that the plains Indians, Apache, first acquired horses and became the famed buffalo hunters that we know today. Their reign lasted until Comanche tribes moved in and took over the area. In the 1870’s Anglo settlers began colonizing the area, effectively ending the era of the Native American.
The First Settlers
Famed cattleman and rancher, Charles Goodnight, moved into Palo Duro Canyon in 1876. He proceeded to purchase vast areas of land establishing the J.A. Ranch and protecting the almost extinct Texas plains bison herd. By then the railroad had made its way west and into the small town of Quitaque, population 30 people. As more settlers arrived, the land that had been established as the J.A. Ranch passed through several owners and in 1975 was purchased b