The Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has shifted management of the Caprock Canyons State Park bison herd to TPWD’s State Parks Division. With the shift the grazing range of the official Texas State Bison Herd will be expanded from a half-section enclosure to eventually the entire state park and thus increasing viewing opportunities for park visitors.
“One of the major requests we’ve had from visitors is they’d like to be able to see the bison better and get closer to them,” said park Superintendent Donald Beard.
To enable better public viewing, the bison will be placed behind a new fence that will encompass the prairie around the Visitors Center and the southern portion of Lake Theo, more than doubling the rangeland for the herd.
That means once visitors come through the main entrance, they would in effect be inside the bison enclosure. Interior fences will be erected to protect historic sites, day use sites, the northern portion of Lake Theo, and the more ecologically sensitive areas of the 15,300-acre park that is located where the Panhandle’s High Plains, or caprock, to the west collide with the Rolling Plains to the east.
In addition to relocating the bison so they can be more readily viewed, park staff will increase educational signage, distribute informational brochures, and present interpretive programs about the herd’s history, their impact on the prairie ecosystem, and safe ways to interact with the shaggy animals.
The Caprock Canyons bison are descendants of the historic bison herd that Panhandle ranchers Charles and Mary Goodnight saved from extinction. In 1876, Goodnight captured some of the last of the great southern plains bison herd and placed them on his JA Ranch to preserve them for posterity. In 1997, JA Ranch owners Monte Ritchie and Ninia Bivins donated the bison to the state, and they were moved to Caprock Canyons in 1998. The herd currently numbers 78.
The small Texas State Bison Herd is thus all that remains of the vast southern plains herd that prior to the 1870s was estimated to number between 30 and 60 million head.
In addition to the historic bison herd, Caprock Canyons State Park offers visitors a breathtakingly beautiful place to experience geologic history than spans 250 million years and enjoy such recreational activities as camping, hiking, mountain biking, nature photography, and horseback riding.
Its companion Caprock Canyons Trailway State Park offer 64 miles of converted railroad beds for recreational uses and the historic Clarity Tunnel, home to a large colony of Brazilian free-tailed bats.
Planning your trip
Caprock Canyons State Park
Phone: (806) 455-1492
Location: About 50 miles northeast of Plainview on FM 1065
Directions: 3.5 miles north of State Highway 86 in Quitaque on FM 1065
Entrance fee: $3/person
Camping fee: $14-20
Camping facilities: Campsites with water, campsites with water and 30-amp electric service, and campsites with water and 50-amp electric service, back-pack sites, and dump station
For local weather forecast, click here.
Oh, give me a home where the Buffalo roam
Where the Deer and the Antelope play;
Where never is heard a discouraging word,
And the sky is not clouded all day.
—Dr. Brewster Higley (1876)