CANYON—To curb the risk for heat exposure to visitors, Palo Duro Canyon State Park will begin closing select trails between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. when the National Weather Service issues heat advisories for the area.
Extreme heat at Palo Duro Canyon State Park led to 47 recent rescue calls in under 48 hours. Every year, the park experiences a slew of distress calls during the hot summer months, stretching park staff and emergency services thin.
"Days when Palo Duro Canyon sees extreme heat are not only dangerous for visitors, but also our first responders from around the community,” said Joe Allen, Superintendent of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. “This change will emphasize safe recreation in the heat and reduce the demand on fire and rescue teams.”
The trails subject to closure include Lighthouse; Comanche; Givens, Spicer, Lowry (GSL); and Rock Garden. These trails historically have had the most heat-related incidents and provide minimal shade for hikers. Closures will be posted in advance on the Palo Duro Canyon State Park Facebook page and visitors will be able to access the trails during the cooler portions of the day.
“Our number one priority is the safety of our visitors and staff,” added Allen. “This change will help protect our visitors during the most dangerous part of the day on days with elevated risk. Fortunately, visitors will be able to experience the canyon on other trails during the heat of the day and all trails during the cooler times of the day.
During these closures, there continue to be numerous other trails and recreational opportunities to explore.
“Trails like Rojo Grande and Paseo del Rio are more shaded and offer a great experience to guests,” said Allen. “The Lighthouse formation is observable from the Visitor Center and Canyon Gallery’s viewing scope from the comfort of air conditioning. Visitors to the park will still have a great experience and we hope a safe one.”
The park has a longstanding partnership with Texas Tech University’s West Texas Mesonet project and the National Weather Service to collect temperature data daily on both the top rim and floor of the canyon. The data collection has produced beneficial information over time including a real-time weather dashboard at the park Visitor Center.
In 2018, data collection led the National Weather Service to classify Palo Duro Canyon State Park as its’ own unique weather zone. The canyon represents a stand-alone microenvironment where weather events are unique. Heat radiates from the sun directly and from the rocks and soil on the canyon floor.