Heritage, Volume 6, Number 2, Summer 1988 Page: 9
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Palo Duro Creek was bypassed by most of the major events
in the history of early settlement, but only because the main
trails passed to the north and south along the larger drainages
of the Canadian Rivers. The creek was one of the last refuges
of the Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne. They drifted north
from the Llano Estacado and Palo Duro Canyon when things
got too hot there, and then south again when the Bluecoats
A demonstration showing the use of a heavy scraper found along the
creek. This tool was made of Alibates flint from the Canadian River near
The remains of the Palo Duro Creek one room schoolhouse, circa 1890s
moved down from forts in Kansas and Colorado. Buffalo
hunters used Palo Duro Creek as their major trail from Dodge
City, Kansas, as the bison carnage spread through the Panhandle.
Freighters hauled canned goods into the heart of the
prairie, and picked up bison bone on the way back to Dodge
City to be ground into fertilizer and shipped back east on the
railroad. And settlers came to the creek soon after the last
Indians were moved out to the reservation in Fort Sill,
The live, clear water of Palo Duro Creek has emerged from
the Ogallala Aquifer for thousands of years, and would have
for thousands more if it weren't for the water-guzzling irrigation
that began in earnest in the 1950s. The new wells
pumped from 450 to 1050 gallons a minute from the aquifer,
and were capable of irrigating vast acreages. Flatland farmers
shifted to corn and cotton from dryland crops such as wheat
and sorghum. The new irrigation farmers created a tropical
oasis in the arid Panhandle that successfully buffered the
drought of the 1950s. Unfortunately, the supply of water was
not limitless, though many perceived it to be. From 1955 to
1970, the number of irrigation wells in the county increased
from 183 to 1072. During the same period, the average annual
water table decline was 34.6 feet, a 20 to 30 percent drop in
the aquifer in only two decades.
As the water table dropped, the riparian ribbon of Palo
Duro Creek soon dried up. Since then, creek flow has been
intermittent, mostly when heavy rains flush it out with a
vengeance, or when winter snow melt chokes it with runoff.
The depletion of the aquifer also threatens municipal water
supplies. Hence the proposed Palo Duro Reservoir.
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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/m1/9/: accessed May 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.