By Michael W. Nickell
For millions of years the forces of wind, water and temperature have sculpted the canyons of the Llano Estacado. The escarpment of the canyons forms a transition between the flat High Plains of the Llano Estacado and the Rolling Plains toward the east. Eastern flowing streams from the Llano Estacado have cut through the Caprock Escarpment flowing into the Red, Brazos and Colorado rivers. These streams have exposed layers of geology down to the Permian Quartermaster Formation of approximately 250-280 million years before present. The "red beds" of the Quartermaster Formation are composed of red shale, sandstone, siltstone, and mudstone, and provide the region with much of its beauty.
Geology greatly affects living organisms. Most sites above the escarpment are on the High Plains composing a short-grass prairie of blue grama, sideoats grama and buffalo grass. Because of its deep and fertile soils, the short-grass prairie has largely been converted to agriculture. The canyons support several species of juniper, scrub oak, and many other types of trees and shrubs. Along the canyon bottoms are streambeds of tall and mid-level grasses.
On September 12th and 13th, 2008 a few members of the Permian Basin Outing Club (PBOC) and I braved the elements of a rainy week and were greatly rewarded with grand vistas of Haynes Canyon and Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway. We mountain biked a portion of the trailway from South Plains to Monk's Crossing–a distance of about 23 miles. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired the donation of 64.25 miles of a 1920s era railroad right of way stretching from South Plains to Estelline, Texas.