Roaming with the Bison at Caprock Canyons State Park

Bison crossing at Caprock Canyon State Park, Texas.

I was struck with the spacious reddish canyon in the horizon as we drove to our campsite. I thought in Texas I could only see a view like that in Palo Duro. Then we saw a herd of bison by the roadside and around the campsite. Wow! We’re not just roaming with the bison at Caprock Canyons State Park, but sleeping with them as well for the next 2 nights. Sweet!

Location: Quitaque, Texas.

Visited: March 2017 (Spring Break).

Our Accommodation: Wild Horse Camping Area in Caprock Canyons SP.

Our Activities:

  • Joined 2 ranger programs: Pin the Tail on the Bison & Constellations in the Canyon.
  • Hiked Canyon Rim Spur Trail, walked to The Natural Bridge and exploring canyons.
  • Junior Ranger Program for the boys.

Our Stories:

Roaming with the bison at Caprock Canyons SP

As we drove back to Visitor Center for the ranger program, we saw more of bison roaming around the park. They were by the campsites, Lake Theo, and the visitor center; from adults to juveniles.

Herd of bison at Lake Theo, Caprock Canyons SP, TX.Bison were moving to other location at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

That afternoon, my son and his buddy got a chance to join the program called “Pin the Tail on the Bison”. They weren’t literally pinning the bison, but it was a fun way for them to learn about bison uses. They learned everything about bison from head to toes. They even got a chance to lift its skull and feel its fur.

Learning about bison uses thru the ranger program at Caprock Canyons SP, TX. "I could lift the bison skull." Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

 

Who would Pin the Tail on the Bison at Caprock Canyons SP, TX?Learning about bison fur uses at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

Then the ranger told them the history of bison in the area. Bison started roaming the area from the Folsom Man era dating back to 10,000 – 12,000 years ago. In the 1500s – 1700s, during early Spanish explorer in Texas, bison’s fur was one of the commodities. The saddest year was between 1874-1878, the years of the great slaughter when the great southern bison herd practically eliminated. They learned that Mary Ann and Charles Goodnight started saving the bison from extinction back in 1878; and as of March 16, 2017, there were 140 bisons in the park. They descend directly from the Goodnight bison.

They also learned when bison become disturbed or agitated, they tend to hold their tails up in a question mark shape. It means you have to stay away from the bison. We saw it once from the car but that’s because the bison was doing #2.

Canyon Rim Spur Trail at Caprock Canyons SP

The next morning we went for a hike to Canyon Rim Spur Trail. The trail started from Honey Flat Camping Area. It was flat, easy, and doable for little children. We could walk to the rim to see the view of the canyon. It’s no Grand Canyon, but I am grateful we have a place like this in Texas. Moreover, it’s only 5-hour drive from home in the south of Ft. Worth.

A scenic canyon view along Holmes Creek Canyon at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.A creek down the Holmes Creek Canyon at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

After 10 minutes of a hike, we saw a herd of bison from a distance. It looked like they go further into the prairie. So we wouldn’t encounter with them on our hike.

Bison roaming to other location at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

We continued our hiked with stopping and enjoying the view of the canyon here and there. We looked for animal prints and tried to avoid bison’s scat on the trail. The boys still remembered their lesson about bison’s scat that it can also be used as a fire starter.

Once dry, bison scat is good for starting fire. Caprock Canyons SP, TX.The fresh bison scat looks like an icing on top of a cupcake. Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

About 40 minutes later, my husband who was walking ahead of us, signing us to be quiet. He pointed towards the trail ahead and there we saw a herd of bison grazing on grass, right-on-the-trail. Wow! We are roaming with the bison at Caprock Canyons! How interesting is that!

Bison grazing on grass at Canyon Rim Spur Trail, Caprock Canyons SP, TX.Roaming with the bison at Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas.

 

 

 

 

After a while, they sensed our presence. We just stood silently and watched them from about 50 yards away. That’s the safest distance if you encounter with them on your hike. Then we had to turn around because we didn’t think they would move soon from the trail. After all, we were the visitors in their backyard.

I think we were so lucky to experience this moment.

Camping at Wild Horse Camping Area in Caprock Canyons SP

At Caprock Canyons you can find campgrounds with water and electricity as well as primitive with no water and electricity that come with an organic toilet. There’s also Equestrian Site where they allowed tent, trailers, and RV campers to camp with the closest restroom a mile away.

This is the Equestrian Site at Caprock Canyons State Park, TX.

During a high season like Spring Break, sites with water and electricity got booked fast. So our choice was primitive with the organic toilet or equestrian with horses scat on the ground. I chose to stay at the second one because I just couldn’t stand using the organic toilet for 3 consecutive days.

My husband then bought a popped-up tent to put in our porta toilet for this trip. When the package arrived, there’s one thing missing though: the top cover. But, when we used it during camp in the evening, millions of stars were shining on us. Pretty cool, huh?

Our toilet during our stayed at Equestrian Site in Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

The campsite itself was nice. It’s huge with 2 corrals per site. There was water source at every site, a picnic table, fire grill/ring, and parking at sites. Surprisingly, the site didn’t smell but the noise from the windmill that stood right in our site was really annoying.

They also put fences around the campground. I think it’s to keep horses inside when they running loose.

When we woke up in the morning, we’ve got visitor outside the campground: bison grazing on grass. What a striking view!

Our morning visitor at Equestrian Site in Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

Walked to the Natural Bridge and exploring the canyons

It was quite hot when we were there but I insisted we had to visit the Natural Bridge. It was located along Eagle Point Trail and we had no idea how far it is from the starting point.

Well, it wasn’t too long when I saw a small trail on the right side that looked inviting while my husband spotted the wooden bench on the left side. According to the map, that’s where the Natural Bridge is.

This is the trail to the tunnel under the Natural Bridge at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.At the mouth of the tunnel under the Natural Bridge in Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we followed the small trail that took us down to the tunnel under the Natural Bridge. It was a short tunnel but we had to climb and crawl a bit in order to get to the other side of the tunnel. The boys had fun jumping from one rock to another rock here. The tunnel was the main attraction for this Natural Bridge.

Tunnel under the Natural Bridge at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

When my husband went back to the car, I went with the boys to explore the slot canyons along the area. We saw layers of gypsum on the rocks. They looked remarkable. We also saw solid ones on the canyon’s floor. We wanted to explore these never-ending slots further out, but we forgot to bring the map! It wasn’t a good move. So we turned around and explored the hills where we could see our car from the top.

Remarkable gypsum layers along the canyon slot at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.We found solid gypsum at the canyon slot floor in Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

I tell you what. The boys were just unstoppable. They wanted to climb to the top but I warned them that they didn’t have enough climbing experience for doing that. Fortunately, they knew their limits. They stopped when they couldn’t find a place to put their hands and feet on. Phew!

The boys had fun climbing the rocks at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.They reached the highest point of the rock they could climb, Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

I didn’t go that high with them but from where I stood, I could also enjoy the scenic view of the park. And our tiny red car looked even tinier. I wished we could stay longer to do hiking around South Prong and North Prong.

A scenic view of Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

Constellations in the Canyon

On a Wednesday night when we were there, the parked offered Constellations in the Canyon program. Our wannabe Astronaut son was so excited.

We got there early so he could ask questions to the professional stargazers and learned about their telescopes.

Questions for the professional stargazer during Constellations at the Canyon ranger program at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.Early worms got to see thru the telescope first. Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a while, he decided he wanted to set up his telescope, too. He got it from his aunt last Christmas and he brought it along with him on this trip. He was really serious when he set it up. One of the stargazer professionals told me, “He will never forget this moment.” Me, too!

My wannabe Austronaut son decided to set up his telescope during Constellations in the Canyon at Caprock Canyons SP, TX.

It still gives me a smile whenever I remembered that moment: him with his tiny telescope amongst the professionals with their huge high-end telescopes.

Before night fell, we got to see Venus. I thought I would see the whole planet. But in a telescopic view, it looked like a crescent moon. It is because of its position between the Earth and the Sun.

Then darkness fell. Orion Belt, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, North Star, and billions of stars appeared one by one. We got to see the Orion Nebulae and thru the biggest telescope they had that night, I could see its horse’s shape. We got to see the Pleiades, an open star cluster that is also known by Seven Sisters. There was Betelgeuse, the Red Supergiant. They also pointed us Leo constellation and some others. It was a night to remember.

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