Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988 Page: 6
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The Life and Times of Palo Duro Creek
by John Peterson
O ne fine spring day in 1541, Captain Juan Jaramillo
rode with the army of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado
across the Canadian River, and onto the western
edge of the Southern Plains. Later, at the official inquiry of
the expedition, he described the fresh land and its people:
"...we found ourselves in the midst of an immense herd of
cows, calves, and bulls (bison), all together. At the beginning
of the plains of the cattle we met some Indians, called
Querechos by the people of the terraced houses (Pueblo
Indians). They did not live in houses, but carried some poles
with them which they put together at their camping places in
order to make a sort of shack which they used as houses. From
what we have learned about these Indians, they satisfy all
their human needs from the cattle, for from them they wander
from place to place as it suits them."
Few people agree about Coronado's route across the
Southern plains in search of the legendary Quivira, but the
two main interpretations argue for either a southern route
along Palo Duro Canyon and the headwaters of the Prairie
Dog Town Fork of the Red River, or a northern route through
the other Palo Duro Creek valley of the northernmost reaches
Palo Duro Creek after snowmelt rushed through the channel. The creek
has been intermittent since the early 1950s.
of the Texas Panhandle, just south of neighboring Oklahoma.
There's a good chance his army at least returned along
the northern Palo Duro Creek, and Coronado probably
crossed it on the way to Quivira as well.
It wouldn't really matter, except the vivid accounts told by
Jaramillo and the Spanish chronicler Pedro de Castafieda
provide tantalizing details about the Querecho nomads along
with another Indian group, the sedentary Teyas, who may
well have been the last living Plains Villagers in that part of
the prairie. And their tales of the great cow herds, and where
they encountered them, may help archaeologists and historians
piece together the movement of the Southern Plains
bison herd, which may have been centered here in the
The archaeology of Palo Duro Creek is being evaluated as
part of the environmental impact studies for the proposed
Palo Duro Reservoir just north of Spearman, Texas. The
creek is about 30 miles of flat panhandle driving north and a
little east of the Canadian River at Borger, Texas, and flows
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988, periodical, Summer 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45434/m1/6/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.