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The Thundering Herd-April 2019

Despite some extreme weather during the first part of Spring Break here at Caprock, visitors had a great time enjoying the wildlife viewing opportunities, scenic canyon and prairie landscapes, and recreational opportunities that the park is so well known for.  Visitors also enjoyed various programming each day and we believe that each individual left with an unforgettable memory that they will carry with them throughout the coarse of their lives.  Caprock Canyons is a land of extremes and although Spring Breakers had to endure wind that, at one point, consisted of gusts up to 70+ miles an hour, they overcame the weather to enjoy Caprock’s “extreme”ly amazing resources.  Some special programming this month were programs honoring notable pioneer women for Women’s History Month.  Robert Tidwell, Curator of Historic Collections for the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock graciously conducted his program for visitors here in the park entitled “Pioneering Women of the Southern Great Plains”.  Another special program for Women’s History Month was our program entitled “Mary Ann Goodnight & the Texas State Bison Herd” to honor Mary Ann Goodnight and her conservation efforts.  Anevay Sanchez, one of the Texas State Parks Ambassadors for Caprock Canyons took photos of various women and their daughters who were enjoying the park together to honor Women’s History Month as well.

Here’s a look at some visitors enjoying the history of the Caprock Canyons Trailway and the lasting legacy within historic Clarity Tunnel during one of our “Trailway Tours” during Spring Break:

The last week of the month of March, a mother bison brought her new calf into the world and introduced it to the other members of the Texas State Bison Herd and park staff!  This is the first new member of the Official Bison Herd of the state of Texas in 2019!!!  We look forward to meeting many more in the next few weeks.  Bison calving at Caprock Canyons State Park has begun!  As with all wildlife, please be courteous to mother bison and their newborns and never surround, crowd, or approach them.  Check out this precious new edition to the Texas State Bison Herd:

This past month we had a lot of good help from some intrepid volunteers.  A boy scout troop from Amarillo put their muscles to work in helping us remove excess vegetation from the Visitor’s Center flowerbeds.  The boys also leveled up the dirt, put down some landscaping mesh, and shoveled in some gravel to help ensure that the flowerbeds will be more easily maintained for park staff.

Students from West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas came to lend us a hand in our prairie restoration efforts.  Led by park ambassador Garrett, these students helped in the management of invasive plants in the prairie to further the goals of the park in its “Restoration Project” to restore the prairies of CCSP to what it was historically, prior to Anglo settlement.  This project was a part of Garrett’s service project within the Texas State Parks Ambassadors Program.  Ambassadors work to complete a service, social media, and outreach project to benefit selected Texas State Parks throughout the state every year.

We are always especially grateful to the volunteers that give so much of their time to Caprock Canyons State Park.  You all make Caprock Canyons such a special place for others to enjoy!

What to See & Do This Month:  Get those cameras ready!

Dust those cameras off, clean those lenses, and charge those batteries because Caprock is getting ready for you to take advantage of blooming flowers and lots of wildlife viewing opportunities.  In just a few weeks, there will be lots of baby bison, prairie dog pups, birds and butterflies, and gorgeous landscape views dotted with wildflowers of various colors.  It’s one of the best times for photography in the park!  From close ups to far away landscape photographs, Caprock has lots to offer.

Ranger Recommendation:  Photography Tips & Tricks

Here’s a few photography tips:

  •  The Rule of Thumb:  Sometimes we are tempted to get those close-up photos of wildlife.  However, photographing wildlife interacting with their native habitat actually makes for a better picture.  Plus, it’s a lot more fun for you and the wildlife!  The next time you find yourself tempted to get a little bit closer to the wildlife, consider giving the wildlife a thumbs up.  Literally!  Give the thumbs up sign with an outstretched arm and close one eye.  In your field of vision, can you cover up the animal with your thumb?  If you can’t, you’re too close!
  • Morning or evening lighting conditions are ideal for stunning photos.  Plus, wildlife in general are more active during these times and you’re more likely to see them moving about!
  • Consider visiting our wildlife viewing blind by Dry Creek Lake.  This water source offers great opportunities to see wildlife getting a drink and allows you the ability to view them from the comfort of a covered seating area.

Programs & Events This  Month:

April 6:

  • Canyon Walk & Talk, 10:00 a.m., Meet at the Upper South Prong Trail
  • Ecosystem Engineers, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion, *Program is designed for children 12 and under*
  • 2019 Bison Festival Kick-Off Party (find out who’s playing in this year’s lineup!), 7:00 p.m., Quitaque Country Club
  • Nighttime Narratives, 8:30 p.m., Interpretive Amphitheater

April 13:

April 19:

  • Full Moon Hike, 8:45 p.m., Meet at the Upper South Prong Trail, Please bring a flashlight if it turns overcast.

April 20:

  • Trailway Tour, 10:00 a.m., Reservations Required.  Please call the park at (806)455-1492 to reserve your spot.  $10 per seat.
  • Nature Etiquette, 2:00 p.m., Visitor’s Center Pavilion
  • The Texas State Bison Herd, 8:30 p.m., Interpretive Amphitheater

April 27:

  • Caprock Canyons Star Party, 9:00 p.m., North Prong Parking Lot.  Please bring warm clothes and a comfortable lawn chair.

Interpreter’s Corner:

With all the excitement over the new bison calf and the prospect of perhaps 50 more on the way, we thought you should know the romantic, full story on why these new members of the Texas State Bison Herd are so important.  (Besides the fact that they’re just so darn cute)

During the late 1800s, bison were killed by the thousands for their hides.  During this time in the year 1878, Mrs. Charles Goodnight made a request to her husband to capture some orphaned bison calves.  From these few calves, the “Goodnight herd” was established.  Fortunately, this was in the knick of time as there were less than 1,000 bison to be found throughout all of North America during a census of bison conducted in 1889.  Charles and Mary Ann were instrumental in the conservation of bison throughout the U.S., sending members of their herd to different places in the country and to zoos.  Through a series of events and after the death of Charles and Mary Ann, the Goodnight Bison Herd was left to free-range the JA Ranch.  Later in 1996, Texas Parks and Wildlife set about the great task of bringing the bison to Caprock Canyons State Park and in 1997, they succeeded.  During this time, there were only 36.  After extensive genetic testing of the bison, unique genetic markers were found making the herd unlike any other herd in the world.  Today, the Goodnight Bison Herd is known as the Texas State Bison Herd and represent the last known vestige of the southern herd of plains bison.  They are one of 5 foundation herds through which all bison in North America originate and have been designated as the Official Bison Herd of the state of Texas due to their unique genetics and history.  Today, the herd numbers around 200 head and is steadily increasing.  In order to ensure their future, further increases in their numbers are critical.  The herd may also prove to be important genetically as new scientific technology may soon allow geneticists the ability to map the bison genome.  What is certain, is that this amazing herd is a part of our heritage and Mary Ann’s legacy lives within each member of the herd to give each visitor the opportunity to see this one last living symbol of the American West.

Many spring blessings!

Le’Ann