South elevation of plans for restoration of the XIT General Office, Channing (Library of Congress)
Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour

THE 52-COUNTY TEXAS PLAINS TRAIL is the largest of the ten Heritage Trails Regions of Texas, an award-winning heritage tourism initiative of the Texas Historical Commission. We help you discover the real places that tell the real stories of Texas--places you'll want to explore on vacations, road trips, hikes, weekend excursions with your family and friends.

We invite you to join us throughout 2015 for our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour--once a week online, and in person whenever you're ready to hit the road! Follow along with a different county each week, from Armstrong to Yoakum. Visit us at to plan your adventure by city, site, theme, or event. Watch your e-mail newsletter weekly for fun facts, games, prizes, and travel ideas.

Download our THC regional travel guide here (pdf).
And we'll see you along the trail!  
The three-million-acre XIT was once the largest ranch in the world under fence, and visitors can see its historic headquarters proudly restored today in Channing, Texas. (Photo from Dalhart Chamber of Commerce)
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Hartley County, Texas
Hartley County TX 
Click to download a map of the Texas Plains Trail Region (pdf) 

of level to rolling grasslands in the northwest part of the Texas Panhandle. The terrain is marked by jagged, dry arroyos and by the intermittent Punta de Agua and Rita Blanca creeks, which join in Hartley County and drain into the Canadian River in Oldham County.

Apache Indians once inhabited the region but were pushed out about 1700 by the Comanches, who ruled the area until the Red River War of 1873-74, after which they were removed to Indian Territory. Due to its proximity to both the Canadian River and New Mexico, Hartley County undoubtedly witnessed the comings and goings of Comancheros, ciboleros, and pastores as they ventured eastward from New Mexico into Comanchería on the Great Plains. The pastores continued to migrate yearly after the Indian era and made up a large part of the regional population and economy into the early 1880s.

In the late 1870s and 1880s Hartley County changed from raw frontier into the domain of the established rancher. The famous XIT Ranch was formed along the western border of the Panhandle in 1882 and occupied the western and southern thirds of Hartley County, along with a large part of neighboring Dallam County.

Railroads first entered Hartley County in 1888, when the Fort Worth and Denver Railway extended its main line westward from Amarillo through the sites of Channing, Hartley, and Dalhart, to Texline, in Dallam County. The Chicago, Rock Island and Mexico Railway, building southwesterly from Enid, Oklahoma, to Tucumcari, New Mexico, entered the county through Dalhart in 1901. With two rail connections to the outside world, Hartley County ranches shipped their cattle more easily than before, and settlers began to arrive in larger numbers.

The grim days of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression set the area back during the 1930s. More than 20 percent of local farmers were compelled to give up their lands, and by 1940 only 207 farms remained in the county. As a result, the population dropped to 1,873 by 1940. The establishment of Dalhart Army Air Field in northern Hartley County during World War II helped to revive the economy, however, and crop production also picked up as farmers increasingly tapped the huge Ogallala Aquifer for water.

Today, Hartley County and neighboring Dallam County welcome travelers to stop by and learn more about their ranching heritage and local culture.


(Information from and Wikipedia)

Texas Historical Commission HISTORICAL MARKERS AND SITES   The Texas Historical Commission's online Texas Historical Sites Atlas  guides you to locations and information on museums, cemeteries, military sites, historical markers, national register properties, and more--including 21 listings in Hartley County. Click and explore for history on your desktop!
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Founded  1891 
County seat  Channing
Population  6062

Communities    Channing  Dalhart  Hartley

Mascots   Channing Eagles   Hartley Tigers   Dalhart Golden Wolves/Lady Wolves

Dalhart, Texas, named for the fact that straddles two counties, Dallam and Hartley, lies closer to the capitals of six other states than it does to the Texas state capital of Austin. 



travelers can find several welcome and interesting breaks places large and small. While the county seat of Channing is one of the state's smallest, with a population of 363, the city boasts an array of well preserved structures that embrace much of the northern Panhandle's ranching and railroading history.

The Hartley County Courthouse (above) is situated on Railroad Street between West 9th and West 10th Streets. The historical marker in front indicates that the building was constructed in a Beaux Arts style featuring a triumphal arch on the front façade, while the building's cornerstone indication the courthouse was constructed in 1906 by architect O.Q. Rouquemore. It's a working courthouse, and while visitors can stroll its tree-shaded grounds, you can also visit the interior during normal business hours. 

Just around the corner on the 10th Street side is the Hartley County Jail. Constructed as the same red brick as the courthouse, the jail features high arched, barred widows. Constructed in 1908, the jail is still in use today.

On the opposite end of town at Fifth and Railroad Streets sits the XIT Ranch House, headquarters of what was the once the largest ranch in the world under fence in the 1880s. Destined in 2008 to be dismantled and moved to the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock for reconstruction, the historic building remained in Channing thanks to vigorous mobilization and fund-raising by local citizens. 


Channing is also home to the Saddle Mount Cowboy Church, whose Facebook posts will keep you up to date on all their goings-on.


Thirteen miles north of Channing on US 385/US 87, the town of Hartley is home to the original Hartley County jail. Built in 1892 and not in service since 1903, the roof has fallen in but the white stone walls remain intact. And while you're there, stop in for a bite to eat: the Sunshine Cafe lists its specials daily on their Facebook page.


But if you didn't take advantage of meal or restroom stop further down the highway, another 13 miles north brings you to Dalhart. The southern part of the lies in Hartley County, while the area to the north lies in Dallam County. As the largest city in Hartley County, Dalhart has a number of worthwhile attractions. Among them is Lake Rita Blanca Park. Located just south of Dalhart on US-385/US-87 at FM 281, the park is known as a wonderful area for bird watching and also offers hiking, horseback riding, biking, and nature trails.



The Dalhart Municipal Airport, originally opened as Dalhart Army Airfield in 1942, and becoming the property of the City of Dalhart in 1945, serves the regional needs of private aircraft. While the airport does not serve any commercial flights, it gladly serves the general public, with an on-site restaurant where patrons can watch flights coming and going or just enjoy the sunset, and appreciate the sophisticated design of the airport's lobby area (photos above and below), which displays original art and historic photographs.



Dalhart's best known event is the XIT Rodeo and Reunion. After the breakup of the XIT into smaller ranches, The Dalhart reunions started in 1937 as a way for cowboys who had worked on the XIT Ranch to gather and reminisce about life in days gone by. The rodeo and free barbecue were added later, and the event was opened to the public. Attendance today generally triples the population of the town. The rodeo starts today, so mosey on out through Hartley County and enjoy the trip! 



AUGUST 6, 7, & 8, 2015 


The XIT Museum in Dalhart preserves the history of the famous ranch - and much, much more about the area's nature and wildlife, community and customs, transportation, and art and culture. 



August 6-8: XIT Rodeo and Reunion, Dalhart

Events: Rodeo, museum open house, dance, antique tractor show and pull, 5k run and 1 mile fun run, street parade, food, arts and crafts show, and more activities over the three-day event. Contact Dalhart Chamber of Commerce, 806-244-5646.


October 18: Oktoberfest and Auction, Dalhart

Annual Fundraiser for St. Anthony of Padua School. Event to be held at the Rita Blanca Coliseum

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Our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Deck of Cards is a sweet deal to help plan your trip. Pre-order yours now--each face summarizes a different county's travel highlights. $5.95 per deck (plus tax & shipping), in custom tuck box. Keep a deck in the glove compartment. Or use them in your favorite game of Texas Hold 'Em or Fifty-Two-Card Pickup!

Retailers and Texas Plains Trail partners, please contact us at 806.747.1997 or for bulk sales and shipping.

Flat 52 Car Cutout As you travel the 52 counties of the Texas Plains Trail Region, take our Plains Trail kids and dog along with you -- in our #C52NTX 1952 DeSoto Ragtop (pdf). Download and print the graphic on heavy paper on your own color printer. Cut along the dashed line. Then glue a stir stick or popsicle stick to the back -- and feature it in your photos of destinations all around the region. Along the way, share your pix to
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TX Highway 52 "52" TRIVIA TIME

Fewer than 52 days remain before our 2015 Texas Plains Trail Tourism & Preservation Roundup Aug. 12-13 in Lubbock, featuring renowned photographers Wyman Meinzer and Griff Smith -- and your chance to help shape our Region's heritage tourism future. Register now!  


Like us on Facebook for regular event and travel updates. "See 52 in Texas" and discover great destinations by following our #C52NTX hashtag on Twitter, and statewide travel info on #TexasToDo. For driving and weather conditions, visit And please with your Texas traveling friends!
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Texas Time Travel posters
[Back from a July vacation, we're going to be rounding up a few extra counties just in time for the Texas Plains Trail Tourism & Preservation Roundup, August 12-13, in Lubbock. Over the next week, we will be spotlighting several counties, so be on the lookout.]

It's quiz time!
We've got great prizes to share.

To win a full set of these attractive 24 x 30 Texas Heritage Trails posters, suitable for framing, be the first to email us with the correct identification of this place, located in next week's featured county.

Congratulations to all our weekly winners so far. We have only a few of these collectible poster sets to give away!

Our next county is home to a fifty-foot-long dinosaur and West Texas's only fall foliage festival. Be the first to name the county and its seat to win a set of posters!
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Partners, do take this opportunity to review your community, site, and event information on our Texas Plains Trail website as well as your own sites. We'll want to add your photos, update any obsolete contact info, add your events, and enhance your text content before your week comes up.  Consult the Texas Fifty-Two-Step schedule (pdf), and email with me with updates or questions.

Did you know you can add your own events to the website? You'll need event name, date and time, location and address, and contact info -- and for best results, a photo. Post your festivals and heritage events now!

Like those Texas Fifty-Two-Step county license plate graphics? They are available free to partners for promotional use. Click and scroll down to select, then download your desired images. Please credit Texas Plains Trail/Tomato Graphics.

Our campaign has been designed by a team of creative minds. Our thanks go to Rock Langston of Tomato Graphics, Amarillo, for the design of campaign components and to Stephanie Price of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, for the #C52NTX concept. Barbara Brannon is responsible for copywriting and the weekly newsletter. Photo credits: 1952 blue Chevy Styleline, Hemmings Motor News; 1952 red DeSoto, Daniel Schmitt & Co.; 1952 blue Chevy rear 3/4 view, Walt Pinkston.

Every week's issue is archived on our website.  Click here and scroll to search and download your county!
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Texas Plains Trail Region | 806.747.1997 | E-mail | Website
Barbara A. Brannon, Executive Director

Copyright © 2015 Texas Plains Trail Region. All Rights Reserved.