QUITAQUE, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — People from across the country have heard of Palo Duro State Park. However, a less known but just as perfect getaway destination located in Quitaque, Texas is Caprock Canyons State Park.
Caprock Canyons offers 15,000 acres for tourists to try out hiking, camping, fishing, and so much more.
Park Superintendent, Donald Beard, shared that Caprock Canyons State Park has been made the state’s official Bison Capital.
“Historically, this was a ranching property used as cattle ranching for decades, if not a century. It became part of the State Park system in the ’70s when the former owner passed away, and it was purchased from his heirs. And it was developed in the early 80s and open to the public in mid 80s. It’s about 15,000 acres, and now it’s used as recreation and home to the Texas State Bison herd,” said Beard.
Speaking of recreation, Beard shared that, “We have about 100 campsites where you can camp, whether it be tent, camping, RV camping, lakeside. We have some camping where you can camp around the lakeside. We have about 30 miles of hiking trails where you can backpack a lot of backpackers with, we have some remote camping in the back country. And then we also have the Trailway, which is part of the old Fort Worth and Denver railroad.”
While Caprock Canyons State Park is home to wildlife like bison, prairie dogs, and so much more. Additionally, within the park there are over 300 archeological sites that have been discovered. However, Beard told our team that only half of the park has been surveyed so far. However, when it comes to these sites and artifacts, Beard reminds the public to please not touch anything. He explained, “It’s very important to realize that all animals, plants, rocks, everything in State Park are protected. So if you do run across something, you know, you need to leave it alone. Take a couple pictures of it, show it to the park staff, and then we’ll take care of it at that point. But yeah, it’s not for for collection for sure.”
Beard guessed that of the mentioned artifacts, the “Folsom side of the Lake Theo site” is probably the most well-known. The site was excavated in 1972.
The Park Superintendent explained, “On that site, they figured out that it was a bison kill site. So the Native Americans would either run bison off of the cliff, or they’d run them up into the box canyon and slaughter them for meat at that point. So when when the archaeologists did the excavation, they found tools dating back to Folsom man, which is over 10,000 years old. That means man has been hunting bison in this park in this country for over 10,000 years. Now, it’s just amazing to think of the history of how many people have been here before us and these footsteps that we’re leaving now. What are we walking over, you know? What has been here before? So it’s just really cool.”
According to Beard, over the past decade alone, the park’s visitation has more than doubled from approximately 36,000 to 100,000 visitors annually. He contributed more recent growth in visitors to the pandemic, however, a more consistent factor has always been the bison.
“We were able to take that herd out of the, the facility that they were kept in and they had to be there because we had to do some management stuff, breeding issues. We had things going on and we had to fix but once we got that fixed, we started working on getting them out and getting them out into the park. We did our first release in 2011, gave them about 1,000 acres. Kept working, in 2014 we were able to release them into the park, so now they have free run and pretty much the entire park. They can go through your campsites. Say, you got to wait to cross the road, you know wait for them to cross the road in front of you. It’s just an amazing adventure now to come to this state park and can see bison in their natural habitat. Not behind a fence, not in a zoo, but out wild, roaming through the canyons. It’s just really cool.”
The park is located at 850 Caprock Canyon Rd. Quitaque, TX 79255.