Shannon Across America: Black Kettle National Grassland & Palo Duro Canyon

Visiting Oklahoma grasslands with a tragic past and the canyons of Texas

This is part of a series of posts chronicling my travels across the western United States over the course of several weeks, living on the road and randomly visiting places along the way. You can start reading about the journey from the beginning.

Leaving on the night of Halloween, I decided to get a head start on my trip out of the state and made my way southwest to Springfield, MO during the night, camping at the Wal-Mart. In the morning, I decided to visit the huge Bass Pro store down there, a place that I surprisingly had never been to and one can easily spend hours looking around the store and all it’s attractions. After picking up a few camping items for the trip and looking around the nearby Grizzly store to browse the woodworking stuff, I got back on the road and headed right into Oklahoma.

Black Kettle National Grassland

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It had been a very long time since I had traveled towards the southwest, the last trip being a drive to Texas when I was a kid. So I didn’t remember much about Oklahoma, but for a while it seemed like every exit I passed was a tollway to get on or off the exit.

I decided to stop in the Black Kettle National Grassland area, the location of the Battle of Washita River where George Armstrong Custer killed Chief Black Kettle. I didn’t get to tour the area for too long as I was quickly losing light, but I roamed the area around the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site. It was very peaceful the entire time as it was a Saturday evening after the building had closed and not a soul was in sight. As luck would have it, the clouds in the sky started doing interesting things which lead to some good shots.

Palo Duro Canyon

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I only had a cup of coffee in Texas as I was simply passing through the northern part, but I settled down in Amarillo for a spell and decided to spend a day out at Palo Duro Canyon which is located roughly south of there. I regrettably did not get a chance to see the Lighthouse rock formation that the park is known for, as I spent my day hiking on another trail instead. If I could do it again, I would have stopped at the Lighthouse first.

7V1B9716The canyon is very flat and breathtaking, however photography opportunities were not on my side as either the weather was too gloomy or too harsh when the sun popped out. The majority of this adventure would simply be for the hike itself as it was mostly during the morning and mid-day, but I did get some decent photos.

I made it to the very top of one peak and was tempted to wait until sunset while I was up there, but the hike back would have been much too dark. There was a bad overcast as I arrived back at my car at sunset, so I’m glad I didn’t stick around.

I knew the deserts of New Mexico and the canyons of Arizona lied before me, so the best was yet to come.

Next time: Along Route 66 and the most famous canyon on Earth

Patrick Shannon

About Patrick Shannon

A creative professional, photographer and design+technology advocate based in St. Louis, I have worked with a number of businesses, agencies and clients on design, production and marketing for everyday brands. In my spare time, I enjoy woodworking and am still attempting to build a life-sized replica of Optimus Prime out of wood.