On July 22, 2006, visitors to Amarillo will have a chance to see the area's gun and knife show. One week later many hungry tourists in Amarillo might well decide to attend the local Lobsterfest. Those two very different forms of entertainment, both offered during the same month, underline the variety of activities found in Amarillo, Texas.
Amarillo, located in the center of the Texas Panhandle, contains some unique geological features. "The Grand Canyon of Texas," the Palo Duro Canyon, can be found not far from Amarillo. It is the second largest canyon in the United States.
That 120 mile-long canyon contains colorful and eye-catching rock formations. The width of the Canyon varies from six miles to as much as 20 miles. In some places the canyon reaches down to a point 800 feet below the ridge of the canyon. Native Americans respected the awe-inspiring beauty of the Canyon. Coronado, the first Caucasian to gaze on its beauty, discovered the Canyon in 1541.
The northern portion of Palo Duro Canyon reaches toward a spot of land up close to Amarillo. That northern portion has been called the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The first roads in that State Park were constructed in 1930. Those road builders had joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a workforce created by President Franklin Roosevelt.
No doubt, some of those road builders later decided to stay in the Texas Panhandle. No doubt, some of those road builders became residents of Amarillo, Texas. Twenty years after that road construction, a few of those road builders might have helped to build some amusement park rides.
Although the creator of Amarillo's amusement park was not intent on helping the motels in Amarillo, he certainly did help to grow the list of motel guests. Paul Roads' idea for an amusement park in the area led him to purchase a stretch of land in Amarillo's Thompson Park. Aided by his wife Aletha, and by Mark Miles, the Parks and Recreation Director for Amarillo, Roads created what came to be called Wonderland Park.
Today many families come to Wonderland Park. Many families stay in the motels in Amarillo. Those same families then check-out the rides at Wonderland Park. The children in some families may remember little about Amarillo, except for its connection to two Wonderland rides.
Wonderland Park is probably best known for the ride named "Texas Tornado." The shape of that double-loop roller coaster resembles a Texas tornado. A second Wonderland ride has added notoriety to Amarillo, Texas. "Shoot the Chute," a ride first enjoyed by Park visitors in the year 2000, is the first such ride in the United States.
While Wonderland Park illustrates the technical advances of the 21st Century, Amarillo will never loose its tie to the natural beauty that surrounds it. The Palo Duro Canyon remains as beautiful and awe-inspiring today as it was in the 16th Century, when Coronado first gazed at its magnificence. Perhaps the beauty of that Canyon convinced Coronado that there was indeed a city of gold in the region.