Monday, August 15, 2016

Caprock Canyon's Rock Star

Photo credit: D. Beard
I have a new favorite rock star. Meet Donald Beard, the park superintendent of Caprock Canyon State Park. Actually, he is my Caprock star. Ok, ok, so that was a bit corny. But seriously, this man is a Dude with a capital "D".

Donald Beard
I hooked up with Beard several years ago on Facebook. I've admired his work from afar, and I finally got to admire it up close this past week. He took the hubster and myself on a tour of the park and gave us a close and personal view of some of the American bison heard that dwell in the park. Well, as close as you dare get, because you never want to step out of your vehicle unless you like agitating 1400 lbs of furry beast.

Beard is responsible for not only all manner of activities involved with running a state park, but also the park's bison heard. During our visit he gave us some history and talked about how the heard increased since he came to the park in 2009.

The bison originally came from the Goodnight family who had rounded up descendants of the original southern heards that roamed the prairies. Once standing at 30-60 million strong across the plains, they were decimated after Europeans settled the region, leaving roughly 1,000. The amazing thing about the bison in Caprock is that they are genetically identical to those that once roamed the land, which is truly exciting.

Once donated to the park, the heard had been kept in a smaller pen, unable to roam the park freely. This was one of the tasks Beard took by the horns, so to speak. The majestic animals now roam freely in the park and he often shares photos of them, even pics of them congregating just outside his office window. How would you like that view from your desk every day?


The heard has grown from a couple handfuls too, and for every calf that is born, they pull some fur from the tail and draw blood, tracking the parentage. A few of them have tracking collars on, and aside from being used to vehicles, the bison just do what bison normally do.

Beard is also tasked with maintaining the park's ecosystem. That means brush that grows where it isn't supposed to is in the process of being removed in order to restore what would have been natural grasslands.





Every year they celebrate the bison at BisonFest, bringing in some amazing country music groups. This year bringing in Robert Earl Keen among others.

This park is truly amazing and if you like camping, you may find yourself within the thick of the bison heard, who are allowed to roam where they might. If camping is not really your style, you can stay an hour down the road in Childress, which offers a variety of hotel and dining options.



If you make the trip to Caprock, be sure to bring your hiking shoes, because this is some truly beautiful land you will want to hike. And keep an eye out for my favorite rock star because you never know what he might be up to next.