Monday, June 18, 2018

Camping Caprocks Canyon

Sunrise at the Childress Walmart.

Time to go fuel up, scrape the 10 hours’ worth of yesterday’s bugs off the windshield, (Yep, 10 hours of driving and still well within Texas) and head on across the last 60 miles to Caprock Canyons State Park

Childress is about halfway between Amarillo and Wichita Falls and the 24 hr. Childress Walmart is very popular with truck-drivers, so much so that it appears Walmart, maybe in conjunction with the small Pilot truck-stop just to the east which has limited parking, built a truck parking addition to the parking lot.

If you are a large RV I wouldn’t recommend trying to park in that area though. There’s not quite enough truck parking around here as it is and most of the rest of the Walmart lot is signed as no truck parking, but it doesn’t say anything about RV parking. Otherwise there’s a fairly decent set of rest areas about 35 miles southeast on US-287 between Quanah and Chillicothe

Me, I just pull in next to one of the outlying cart-corrals where I’m not interfering with the available ‘swinging space’ required to turn long trucks. The disadvantage of this is that it puts me right next to a cart-corral but because it's far from the doors not many people use it, especially during the overnight-hours when I'm there.

There’s a few camping choices available at Caprock, though I can’t personally recommend the walk-in tent sites there on Lake Theo. Each site does have a sheltered table but it all looks more like a picnic area turned into a campground as an afterthought, so the sites are small and crammed right on top of each other with no privacy.

Most RV-ers choose the Honey Flat Camping Area which is a nice easy, flatish drive from the visitor center, with the exception of the dip over the Lake Theo spillway, and has both 30 amp as well as 50 amp sites with water.

But been there, done that, and wasn’t impressed.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the sites,

My Honey Flats campsite in 2016

but the last half-dozen or so times I’ve been on water-electric sites I never bothered to break out my power cord, which seems like a waste of my camp-site dollars when there’s less expensive alternatives; although expensive is relative with a 30 amp water-electric site running $17 and the tent sites I'll get to in a moment costing $12. 

One thing to watch out for if driving past Honey Flats is the prairie dog town inside that red circled area back there on the map. Most of the inhabitants are pretty laid back but there are some that will panic and run in unpredictable directions so you don’t want to be going too fast through here.

And in one case there’s a burrow right in the middle of the road! Which I might not have noticed at all except I saw a prairie dog dive into it.

In addition to full-featured Honey flats campsites there's also a couple of primitive backpack camps in the park, or, for those with horses, the Wild Horse Equestrian camp, but my choice of campsite this stay was to drive down into the canyon (Honey Flats is up on the rim) to one of the two tent camping areas. The parking area at Little Red Tent Camping Area is – well parking-lot like, which is no big deal if you are actually staying in a tent, which I’m not.

The thing Little Red Tent Camping Area has going for it that South Prong does not is shelters at each site.

One thing to note about driving back this far into the park is not just one, but two steep dips in the road resulting in four 16% grades. This is steep enough that first-gear is not going to hold so you will have to use the brakes.

No trailers over 15 feet are allowed on this section of the road, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend anything with a long wheelbase and overhangs because of the sharp turns and abrupt grade changes, but I have seen a 27 ft Class C down here, (Just cruising by, it never stopped.)

Another thing to watch for pretty much anywhere in the park are the bison, such as this pair of bulls I encountered on my way into my campsite.  (It was probably these same two bulls that played a part in a minor drama several days later, but I’ll get to that in another post.)

South Prong Tent Camping area, right at the end of the park road, is less parking-lot-ish and some of the sites seem to be more private, but there are no shelters here,


which is not that big a deal if you carry your own shelter.  I was also able to take advantage of a screen of Mesquite to shelter my shelter from the afternoon sun.

And I’m soon all “set up” at site 49 where all my cooking and sleeping will be done in The Van.

Sunday afternoon generated an intermittent stream of looky-loos that drove to the end of the road, around the loop and back out again, most without stopping, but that died off as the sun set and for the next 5 nights I was pretty much alone except for the occasional vehicle parked at the trail-head (Upper Canyon Trail) and one tent-camper that set up on the other side of the loop and stayed one night.

My kind of place! (When a ranger shopping for a small RV of his own stopped by on my last evening there to ask some questions about The Van I found that my unused voice didn't want to work properly at all)

Something to pay attention to, though there is a pit toilet at both Little Red and South Prong tent areas, there's no water beyond Honey Flats, which is also the nearest trash disposal, so bring what aqua you need and pack the trash out!

This place is nestled down at the mouth of a canyon that wanders another two miles towards the escarpment that seperates the rolling plains to the east and the south plains to the west. In a later post I’ll give you a sample of the abrupt and startling demarcation between these two geological features.

But for now I can’t help staring at the cliff behind me which, to varying degrees of clarity depending on the angle of the sun, appears to have a frieze carved into it,

including someone wearing a coned ceremonial hat.

A couple of final notes about coming to Caprock.

Though Quitique, 4 miles away, was the first US town to go to a completely wireless phone system (Installed by GTE in 1991, but they switched back to the old wired system two years later) don't expect data-grade cell signal around here.

In fact you will probably not have enough signal for even a low-tech voice-call from most of the park.

For that reason it's best to download the available PDF trail-maps well before you get here, like back at Estilline out there on a main highway. This could be especially important because the visitor center may have run out of paper maps, as was the case when I arrived this time. (Fortunately part of my pre-trip-prep is to download maps.)


  1. Lake Theo many years ago was a nice place for kayaking and fishing. I did both. That park was a fun one for me in the past. There was an old building in town that was operating as a restaurant. You could order anything you wanted as long as it was what they were fixing that night. But the food was good.

    1. The town is still hanging on. Even has a small indepent grocery store, but I think most the eateries are weekend places catering to the campers and bicyclists