We had never heard of the Pease River.
Even after researching the 50 Texas rivers we wanted to trace, Joe Starr and I scratched our heads when we stumbled on this waterway that stretches from just north of Paducah to the Red River outside Vernon. It tracks the Wichita River to the south, heading generally northeast, rather than southeast like so many Texas rivers.
Our first attempt to document the Pease on this trip was met with wet, cold, wintry weather. We circled back around to the Paducah area — how many people can say they’ve visited Paducah three times in one road trip? — to pick the Pease up before it its three short branches join. There was some confusion about which of the forks we were looking at, since our maps and the road markers did not agree.
After returning to lovely Paducah for the third time, we headed up a lonely road to one of the most beautiful crossings in all our travels. First, we were allowed a smooth gravel road down to the riverbed. Just above the high bridge were handsome limestone cliffs which shifted colors in the lowering sun. The Pease had picked up some steam here and we were sorry to leave.
But we did. We climbed the canyon walls to Quanah, whose high school team was, of course, the Indians. (As in Comanche chief Quanah Parker.) We immediately headed back down into the canyon to Copper Breaks State Park. We had intended to hike here, but today as before, we seemed to be racing against the winter sunset. The park, which includes a little lake for swimming, was nearly deserted. One exception: The teepee-shaped cabins that surely delighted younger versions of ourselves.
The park offers some magnificent views of the Pease River Valley from an overlook, but not direct looks of the river. So we headed further down the canyon, where we were delighted to see the stream was still strong and clear. We hung a left in Crowell, home to the legendary six-man football team, and tooled into Vernon at dusk.
The next morning, we tried to follow the rest of the Pease to its juncture with the Red River. No such luck. We could spot the prairie canyon from our county road, but all potential access always stopped at posted private land. Ah well. Still, we learned a lot about a new river.