Palo Duro Canyon State Park consists of more than 20,000 acres in Armstrong and Randall counties, south of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. The land was deeded by private owners in 1933. From 1933 until 1937, the sent six companies of young men and military veterans to Palo Duro Canyon to develop road access to the canyon floor and to construct the visitor center, cabins, shelters and park headquarters. The hard work of these dedicated individuals was important in the establishment of Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which officially opened on July 4, 1934.
People have inhabited Palo Duro Canyon for approximately 12,000 years. The Clovis and Folsom peoples first resided in the canyon and hunted large herds of mammoth and giant bison. Later, other cultures such as the Apaches, Comanches and Kiowas utilized the canyon’s abundant resources.
Early Spanish explorers are believed to have discovered the area and dubbed the canyon "Palo Duro," which is Spanish for "hard wood" and is in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees. However, an American did not officially discover the canyon until 1852, when Capt. Marcy ventured into the area while searching for the headwaters of the Red River.
In 1874, Palo Duro Canyon was a battle site during the Red River Wars. Col. Mackenzie, under orders from the U.S. Government, apprehended the Native Americans residing in the canyon by first capturing 1,400 horses and then later destroying the majority of the herd. Unable to escape, the Native Americans surrendered and were transported to reservations in Oklahoma. Then, from 1876 until 1890, most of the canyon belonged to the J.A. Ranch and was operated by Col. Charles Goodnight.