Caprock Canyon and the Texas State Bison Herd
A few hundred miles West, the Caprock Escarpment separates the high mesa of the Llano Estacado from the rolling plains of Central Texas. This feature was created from wind and river erosion over millions of years, and is home to many canyon systems up and down the panhandle.
While Palo Duro is famous across the country as the "mini-Grand Canyon" or the "Grand Canyon of Texas", the Caprock Escarpment is home to another canyon system that gets less love than it probably deserves: the Caprock Canyon.
Caprock Canyon currently serves as a state park and trailway, but in the past, it provided an ecosystem that was shared by Native Americans, grey wolves, black bears, and many others who no longer call the area home. One of these relics of a past era, however, has managed to cling to life in West Texas.
That is the Southern Plains Bison.
This variety of bison once roamed the plains of the Western United States in numbers of 30-60 million. They were an integral part of the environment for vegetation control, as a food source for predators, and as an all-around resource for the Native Americans.
The Comanche Indians in West Texas are said to have had as many as 97 non-food uses for a bison. Those uses included weapons, shelter, clothing, and many more.
In the few years from the mid- to late-1870's, settlers and traders came through to take advantage of the massive bison populations, and by 1979, there were under 1,000 bison remaining. By the late-1880's, there was fewer than 100 wild bison.
Thanks to the awareness of legendary Texas cowboy, Charles Goodnight, we still have the opportunity to see these amazing animals today.
Prompted by his wife, Goodnight bought two bison calves and soon grew his herd to over 250. He kept this herd on his ranch inside Caprock Canyon.
In the 1990's, the herd was donated to Texas Parks & Wildlife. There is currently about a hundred bison in the herd that roams freely around Caprock Canyon State Park. For information on the park, you can visit the park page on the TPWD Website.