Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

Nature

Plants & Animals

The geology of the park greatly affects the flora and fauna. Most sites above the escarpment are on the High Plains and are short-grass prairie, which includes blue grama, buffalograss and sideoats grama. The canyons in the western portion of the park support several species of juniper as well as scrub oak. The bot­tomland sites along the Little Red River and its tributaries sup­port tall and mid-level grasses including Indian grass, Canada wildrye and little bluestem, cottonwood trees, wild plum thickets and hackberries. The park abounds with wildflowers in the spring and has a variety of yuccas and multi-flowering cacti.

Over 12,000 years ago these lands supported now-extinct mammoth and giant bison, as well as camel and horses in a damper, cooler climate. More recently, black bears and grey wolves made their home in the region, but by the 1950s, they were forced out due to predator control by humans. Now mule and white-tailed deer, coyotes and bobcats are common with a few prong­horn antelope roaming these canyonlands. The park is also home to the Texas State Bison Herd (the largest herd of buffalo in the state park system). In September 2011, 80 descendants of the great southern plains bison herd were released to a larger habitat of 700 acres of grasslands in the park. Visitors can view these indigenous animals in their native habitat. Small mammals such as grey fox, raccoon and jackrabbits make their home here. There is also a great diversity of reptiles with 14 species of lizards including collared lizards and over 30 species of snakes including prairie rattlesnakes. The area hosts some 175 species of birds including roadrunners, red-tailed hawks and the rarely seen Golden Eagle. Lake Theo, created by the damming of Holmes Creek, is utilized by waterfowl as a permanent water source.

Geology

The rugged beauty of Caprock Canyons State Park has been created over millions of years, shaped by wind and water. The park is located along the Caprock Escarpment, a long, narrow rocky formation as high as 1,000 feet that forms 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 flow onto the lower plains through the Caprock Escarpment, then into the Red, Brazos and Colorado rivers. With a downcutting action, tributary drainages of the Little Red River have exposed geologic layers in the park down to the Permian age Quartermaster formation, formed approximately 280-250 million years ago. These layers are commonly referred to as “red beds” because of the red coloration of their constituent shales, sandstones, siltstones and mudstones. Each of the geologic ages exposed by this headwater drainage erosion is characterized by different colorations including shades of red, orange and white. The park’s steep and colorful canyons and bluffs are the breathtaking result of this powerful natural process.

Elevation

From the eastern to the western border of the park, elevation increases from 2180 to 3180 feet above mean sea level for a maximum relief of 1000 feet. Most of this area contains exposed, red sandstones and siltstones belonging to the Quartermaster formation of the Permian Age.


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