Surrounded by wheat fields and ranch lands, agreeable Perryton (pop. 8,802) sits seven miles south of the Oklahoma border. The town was formed in 1919 when the Santa Fe Railroad came through; people in nearby towns simply picked up their stuff—buildings included—and shifted them here. Ochilton, eight miles south, off US-83/Hwy-70, was one such town, before some 600 people moved all the infrastructure. If you ignore the industrial oil-industry litter on the outskirts, Perryton is not bad looking, with spacious tree-lined streets. The self-styled “Wheatheart of the Nation,” Perryton is also the hometown of Mike Hargrove, 1974 American League Rookie of the Year and later manager of the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners.
Exhibiting many of the upsides and downsides of the Texas Panhandle region’s boom-and-bust economy, Canadian (pop. 2,649) was founded in the 1880s as a railroad town, and later got rich developing oil and gas reserves. After an extended dormancy, Canadian is now hoping to grow again as a center for environmentally sensitive tourism, attracting bird-watchers and history-minded travelers who appreciate the brick-paved streets, 100-year-old buildings, and the delicate, walkable, wooden-decked wagon bridge that spans the Canadian River, two miles north of town.
A crossroads town at the junction of US-83 and cross-country US-60, Canadian has dubbed itself “The Oasis of the Texas Panhandle,” and its riverside location offers the most trees for miles, as well as opportunities for experiencing some Great Plains hospitality while viewing herds of deer, wild turkeys, and the mating rituals of the odd-looking lesser prairie chicken, a member of the grouse family.
A dozen miles northeast of Canadian via paved Hwy-2266, the Black Kettle National Grassland maintains one of the few surviving portions of the natural landscape that once covered the Great Plains—where the deer and the antelope once played, and millions of buffalo roamed. Camping and hiking are available at Lake Marvin (580/497-2143).
Four miles south of Canadian, along the east side of the suddenly four-lane highway that jointly carries US-60 and US-83, a huge brontosaurus stands atop a high bluff. The sculptor, former highway worker Gene Cockrell, named her after his wife, Aud. You may well spot other unique sculptures in and around town.