Main Street, Canadian, Texas, looking toward the lush Canadian River Valley
Main Street, Canadian, Texas -- seat of Hemphill County -- looking toward the lush Canadian River Valley
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!  
High water on the Canadian River, Sept. 8, 1909
High water on the Canadian River, Sept. 8, 1909: lakes control flooding better today.
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Hemphill County, Texas
Click to download a map of the Texas Plains Trail Region (pdf) 
Hemphill County lies in the rolling plains on the eastern edge of the Panhandle, east of the Texas High Plains. The Canadian River flows easterly across the north central part of the county, and the Washita River flows west to east across the southern part.
Originally populated by Apaches, the Kiowas and Comanches had taken over the territory by the early 1800s. After the Red River War of 1873-74 the United States Army forced the two groups into Indian Territory in 1875 and 1876. Several military encounters occurred in Hemphill County, including the Buffalo Wallow Fight, which took place in the southern part of the county on September 12, 1874.
Large cattle ranches briefly dominated the area in the early 1880s but the sale of school lands and state lands, begun in the mid-1880s, coupled with the terrible winter of 1886, spelled the end of the open range.
The early 1890s saw a county covered with smaller, privately owned and fenced ranching operations in place of the unfenced, public-domain, free-range empires. The arrival of the railroad also had much to do with this transformation. The Southern Kansas Railway Company, a Santa Fe subsidiary, began to build a line into the Panhandle in 1886. The tracks crossed Hemphill County during 1887 and reached the town of Panhandle in 1888. The railroad allowed easier access to the outside world and encouraged settlement in the area. It also spawned three townsites, Mendota, Canadian, and Glazier.
The area's economy began to diversify after 1900, partly because of the expansion of the local railroad industry. Farmers began to arrive after 1900 and take up the level, tillable land. Originally focusing on corn and sorghum, by the 1930s, the planting focus shifted to cotton and poultry had joined cattle as a regional farm staple.
As a result of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, many local farms were wiped out and the area's economy and population slumped until the discovery of oil in the county in 1955 led to a production boom in the 1970s.
Downtown Canadian at night
Downtown Canadian at night
Today, Canadian situated at the crossroads of US Highway 60 and the border-to-border US Highway 83, is known as much for its beautiful fall foliage, its historic rodeo, its wildlife, and its welcoming museums and walkable downtown as it is for its farming and ranching heritage.

(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 45 listings in Hemphill County. Click and explore for history on your desktop!
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Founded  1887 
County seat  Canadian
Population  3,807

Communities    Canadian   Glazier

Mascots   Canadian Wildcats  

The Citadelle Art Museum in Canadian was originally constructed as the First Baptist Church before being converted to a private residence and then later donated by the Abraham family as one of Texas's premier art museums.

Canadian River Wagon Bridge
Canadian River Wagon Bridge (photo illustration by Barbara Brannon)

Sporting only one incorporated town, Hemphill County nonetheless offers a plethora of sights, sounds, and scenery to those travelling along US 83/60 in northern Texas. Canadian, the county seat, is considered a cultural and scenic jewel of the northern Texas Panhandle. With a nucleus of wealth and resources and a devotion to the arts, heritage, nature, recreation, and quality of life, this small community has set itself apart as a satisfying place to live and a delightful destination to visit.


Valley Guardian by Terry Henderson (courtesy Canadian-Hemphill Chamber of Commerce)
Valley Guardian by Terry Henderson (courtesy Canadian-Hemphill Chamber of Commerce)

If you arrive in Canadian from the south, you will be greeted by a fifty-foot-long, seventeen-foot-high, one-ton dinosaur named Aud, perched on a mesa overlooking US 83. Built in 1992 by the late Gene Cockrell as a way for children travelling with their parents on the long stretches of Texas highways to know they were almost home, the well-known landmark is named for Cockrell's wife, Audrey.


On the way into town, you pass by the Hemphill County Airport. Though the airport offers no commercial air service, it is open to public use and provides hangars, tiedowns, and fuel service for private aircraft.


Canadian River Pioneer Museum 
River Valley Pioneer Museum
Canadian's downtown area offers an array of shops, restaurants, museums, and services. For a glimpse into the town's heritage and culture, the River Valley Pioneer Museum at 118 North 2
nd Street serves to preserve Canadian's pioneer and turn-of-the century heritage. Artifact-rich exhibits take you from prehistoric archeology to early ranching to the railroading and oil boom eras. A key exhibit chronicles the dramatic 1874 siege known as the Battle of Buffalo Wallow. On Main Street, the Canadian River Art Gallery & Fine Art Academy sells quality original fine art by some of the most talented artists of the American West and offers certified art instruction for youth and continuing art education for adults. The Citadelle Art Museum, located at 502 Nelson Avenue was built in 1910 as the First Baptist Church. The property was purchased in 1977 by Dr. Malouf Abraham and his wife, Therese, and restored as a private residence. In May of 2009, the Abrahams donated their home and their extensive private art collection to the community as a public museum.

Gates of the Citadelle 
Gates of the Citadelle 
Visitors listen to audio tour in the Citadelle Art Foundation, Canadian



Around the corner from the Citadelle is the Texas Crown Performance Hall. This newly restored auditorium at Canadian Middle School hosts a variety of touring theatrical and musical performances. 


WCTU Hemphill County Library
WCTU Hemphill County Library

It seems appropriate that one of the few remaining dry counties in Texas is home to the Women's Christian Temperance Union Chapter, at 500 Main Street - the only building in the United States ever built, owned or maintained by a local Union Chapter. The chapter formed in 1902 and began holding bazaars in 1906 to pay for construction, and the two-story brick structure with a basement was completed in 1911. The Christmas bazaar, now a century-old tradition, is hosted by local volunteers and continues to provide for the Hemphill County Library housed in the building.


For some up-to-date entertainment, the Palace Theater, located at 210 Main Street, features new releases nightly with a matinee on Sundays, as well as occasional special events. Restored to its original Art Deco distinction in 1997, the Palace now houses a digital projection system that is one of only 300 in the world and is the only theater in the Texas Panhandle equipped with the state-of-the-art THX sound system.


Not to be outdone by the town's wide range of indoor offerings, Canadian boasts a considerable variety of outdoor activities, featuring four city parks with picnic tables and children's playgrounds, a city swimming pool, and a skate park, which was designed in consultation with Tony Hawk.


Rodeo grounds, Canadian
Rodeo grounds, Canadian

The Hemphill County Recreation Complex, on the north end of town on Highway 60/83, is home to the local Rodeo Arena, city ponds, baseball complex, horseshoe pit, children's playground, Jones pavilion and the driving range, plus the Hemphill County RV Park.


Located north of Canadian's city limits, the Canadian River Wagon Bridge was built in 1915 and became a part of SH 33 (now US 60/83) in the early 1920s. Today, its total length is 3,255 feet and is part of a scenic hiking and biking trail over the Canadian River Valley and wetlands habitat. The bridge is a great area for walking, jogging, bird watching, and wildlife viewing and in the fall, the changing colors of the fall foliage create a breathtaking vista. Make sure to plan a visit for Canadian's two-day Fall Foliage Festival the third week in October.


Situated seven miles north of Canadian is the  Gene Howe Wildlife Management Area, operated by Texas Parks & Wildlife. Enjoy the views and sounds of wetlands species on the area marshes, including turtles, bats, Great Blue Herons, and native Rio Grande Turkeys, or visit the prairie dog towns, wild plum thickets, and antelope or Lesser Prairie Chicken habitat in the sandhills. Visitors should check in at the headquarters and are required to have a pass from Texas Parks & Wildlife or be part of a group program. The only exceptions are for those who take driving tours. 


Just 5 miles farther north, 63-acre Lake Marvinqualifies the Black Kettle National Grasslands as the crown jewel of panhandle nature sites. Sitting astride the Texas/Oklahoma border and maintained by the US Forest Service, the 575 acres of grasslands combine natural beauty, fascinating history, pristine native habitat and awesome wildlife and bird watching opportunities, with both driving and hiking trails. The site includes a rustic Lodge as well as primitive and RV full hook-up style camping, fishing and limited boating. Reservations for the Lodge are made through the Chamber of Commerce. Camping is first come, first served, with an honor system on-site fee box. After crossing the Canadian River Bridge northbound on US 60/83, take FM 2266 to the right.


Canadian River Art Gallery
Canadian River Art Gallery


After a day full of Canadian adventure, be sure to make your way back to town for a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants and a good night's sleep in a local hotel or B&B. A list of local restaurants and accommodations can be found on Canadian's Chamber of Commerce website.


Canadian Visitor Center
Canadian Visitor Center
Set in beautiful Canadian Texas, close to the beach of the Canadian River, the Beach Club will host the 7th annual Calf Fry and BBQ Cook-off Saturday, September 26, 2015. An IBCA Sanctioned BBQ Competition. Calf Fries all day. Gate opens at 9:00.

For more than 50 years the Canadian Annual Fall Foliage Festival has brought in visitors from all over to check out the sights and sounds of nature, and this year it's expected to do the same.  History lessons, art exhibits, and wagon rides, will accompany the unique two day event. Visitors can also enjoy the annual tour of homes, the Citadelle Art Foundation, and special exhibits at Lake Marvin.
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  Hemphill County card
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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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 summer vacation and Roundup, we're catching up on our county coverage. Enjoy!]

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 had the name of its county seat memorialized in a 1995 song by John McMurty.
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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.