Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


PRAIRIE DOG TOWN FORK OF THE RED RIVER. The Prairie Dog Town Fork, the main tributary of the Red River, rises at the junction of Palo Duro and Tierra Blanca creeks in central Randall County, northeast of Canyon (at 35°00' N, 101°56' W). It flows 160 miles southeastward through the Palo Duro Canyon, across southwestern Armstrong and northeastern Briscoe counties, and out of the canyon and eastward across the broken country of central Hall and Childress counties, to its confluence with the North Fork of the Red River, twelve miles northeast of Vernon (at 34°24' N, 99°32' W); there the Red River proper begins. When the Prairie Dog Town Fork crosses the 100th meridian at the eastern line of Childress County, its south bank becomes the state boundary between Texas and Oklahoma and the northern county line of Hardeman and Wilbarger counties.

Spaniards were the first white men to see the Prairie Dog Town Fork; in the 1780s Pedro Vial and Santiago Fernández followed it during their trading expeditions between Santa Fe and the Taovaya villages on the Red River. Randolph B. Marcy and George B. McClellan first determined it to be the main fork of the Red River after exploring it in the summer of 1852; this designation later influenced the United States Supreme Court decision to award the disputed Greer County to Oklahoma in 1896. The road in Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park crosses the stream five times, and campgrounds are available on the creek. Lake Tanglewood was formed in the early 1960s by a dam on the Prairie Dog Town Fork in northeastern Randall County.

Duane F. Guy, ed., The Story of Palo Duro Canyon (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1979). Carl Newton Tyson, The Red River in Southwestern History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1981).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, "PRAIRIE DOG TOWN FORK OF THE RED RIVER," accessed August 25, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox