“Some land is so unique that it deserves to be actively protected against development,” says Mike Hughes, who along with his family, recently enacted a conservation easement, which will be held by the Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT), on the Prairie Dog River Ranch. The ranch is located almost entirely in the Palo Duro Canyon complex. Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States, is characterized by diverse topography, changing elevations, intense color and striking views, making the Prairie Dog River Ranch which is situated on the canyon’s north side, a rarity. The ranch is home to a myriad of wildlife including mountain lions, Rocky Mountain mule deer, bald eagles and threatened species such as the Texas Horned Lizard and the Palo Duro Mouse. As the name implies, Prairie Dog River Ranch also contains live water, which has attracted people for millennia.
“People have inhabited Palo Duro Canyon for 12,000 years, leaving traces of their presence,” he says. “Our ranch has been home to the Antelope Creek culture, the Comanches and to Charles Goodnight.” Since its settlement as part of the historic JA Ranch, the property now known as Prairie Dog River Ranch, has been cared for by only two additional owners, including the Hughes family.