PALO DURO CANYON, TEXAS

Second Largest Canyon in the United States
The World's Greatest Extinction

Palo Duro Canyon sits at the edge of the Caprock Escarpment, a line of cliffs that marks the transition from the High Plains to the rolling Terrain of the Tablelands. The rocks of three geologic periods are exposed in the canyon walls. The upper veneer formed in the last twenty million years, either from debris washed down from the modern Rocky Mountains or from sand blown into the area by wind. The bulk of the canyon walls are rocks of the Triassic Period.  These are the most colorful of the canyon, ranging from lavender to pink to shades of gray. Beneath is a palette of earth tones, ranging from carmine to vermilion. These are the rocks of the Permian Period. Between the Permian and the Triassic is the greatest extinction of animals in the planet's history, a time when nearly three-quarters of all animal lifeforms disappeared.

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Capitol Peak, Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. (Photo by Fredlyfish4)

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The striking colors and landforms at Palo Duro inspired Georgia O'Keefe to produce a set of paintings while she worked as an art instructor at West Texas State Normal College. Among the set is Red Landscape, painted between 1916 and 1917.