Massacre on the Rim – Phantom Horses of Palo Duro Canyon
If the walls of Palo Duro Canyon could talk, it would tell an amazing tale of history, including immense bloodshed.
Have You Heard the Phantom Horses Running on the Rim of Palo Duro Canyon?
As the summer of 1874 was coming to a close warriors from multiple Indian tribes left their homes to hunt for food for their people to prepare for winter. Part of that preparation included finding a place for the tribe to put down winter camp. That camp for some was within the walls of Palo Duro Canyon.
On the other side of the story, the 4th U.S. Calvary led by General Ronald MacKenzie used Tonkawa scouts to find renegade Indian Tribes. The 4th Calvary was forcing these Indians back to the reservations.
Eventually, Mackenzie and his forces were able to track a larger part of the tribes to Palo Duro Canyon. While standing on the Canyon rim, they were able to view the Indian Camps spread out at the bottom of the Canyon.
Now keep in mind, Palo Duro Canyon did not have the trails it does today. This was just a canyon in the ground at this time in history. If you needed a trail you had to make one yourself.
The Calvary upon finding trails to reach the winter camps, surprised the tribes in an attack, on the early morning of September 28th,1874. A Comanche lookout spotted the soldiers as they began their attack, and was able to warn his tribe before being killed by the soldiers. The Indians were able to flee by climbing the Canyon walls, however, they were not able to make it out with their horses.
The Comanches fired back at the soldiers from the rim, but only killed one soldier and wounded one. Over 50 Indians were killed in the attack by soldiers.
The soldiers and scouts destroyed the camp including the teepees and took all of the Indian's supplies. They also took the 2,000 horses. Some of the horses were divided up and given to the Tonkawa scouts. The other horses, around 1,400, were slaughtered. After the bodies of the horses decomposed, the bones were left and served as a trail marker and a reminder of the massacre for years.
Most of the Indians who did escape, ended up back on the reservations because they had lost all of their supplies, and had no other choice but to return or die.
Not long after the massacre of horses, stories began to surface. Stories of the stampeding of horses on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon. First, it was a few stories, but as years passed the same story was being told by many.
When the moon is at its brightest, the sound begins in the distance, and it moves closer getting louder and louder, and then the thundering horse hooves fill the air. The ghosts of the massacred horses appear on the Canyon Rim and disappear as fast as they appeared.
It has been said that you can still hear the ghosts of the horses in Palo Duro Canyon. The phantom horses remain to remind future generations of the massacre.
Have you heard or seen the horses on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon?
When was the last time you visited Palo Duro Canyon at night? Maybe it's time to go back on a bright moonlit night and wait for the horses to appear.