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View of a water and wind sculpted draw at the headwater of Impossible Canyon

Books & movies

In addition to stirring the creativity of painters and photographers, the Brazos River and its Canyonlands have captured the world's imagination through history, literature, poetry and movies.

Walter Prescott Webb produced his seminal treatise on the American West, The Great Plains, nurtured by his boyhood in Stephens County in the upper-middle Brazos River area.

Joining Webb, we have Dan Flores and his insightful, creative and influential books Caprock Canyonlands and Horizontal Yellow.

John Graves penned his beloved historic memoir Goodbye to a River, a paean to the beauty and history of the upper-middle Brazos River area.

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Colorful and rugged terrain of a tableland mesa provides an archetypal image of a western badland on Gyp Springs Ranch

Larry McMurtry gave us his Pulitzer Prize novel Lonesome Dove, the fictional tale based on Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, historic cattleman who began their exploits at Fort Belknap on the Brazos and roamed all over the Canyonlands.

Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize, Cormac McCarthy based an earlier novel Blood Meridian on historical characters and events, ending with the Judge and the kid at Ft. Griffin on the Clear Fork of the Brazos.

Poet Walter McDonald in Rafting the Brazos and other award-winning poetry captures the special attachment to the Canyonlands that he and many of us feel.

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Opuntia spinosbacca, (Spiny-Fruited Prickly Pear)

Detail of spines on a Opuntia violacea found in Impossible Canyon

Bill Wittliff in 2007 published a book of his iconic photographs from the Lonesome Dove series, with a forward by Larry McMurtry and an introduction by Stephen Harrigan, describing what he calls “a third generation of Lonesome Dove.” Witliff's Lonesome Dove cowboy photographs recall the frontier photography of Rector and Smith.

Wittliff wrote the script and co-produced the Lonesome Dove television mini-series. McMurtry's Comanche Moon, was viewed in January 2008 as a mini-series, almost twenty years after the 1989 award-winning Lonesome Dove.

Lonesome Dove Photographs

To view Bill Wittliff's photographs from the filming of Lonesome Dove, visit the Lonesome Dove Online Exhibition, presented by the Wittliff Collection. Among my favorite images include the photographs of the actors Robert Duvall as Gus and Tommy Lee Jones as Woodrow:

Many of the classic western movies were based on the history of this small segment of the enormous American West, John Grave's “upper middle Brazos,” where Comanches, frontier soldiers, settlers and cowmen clashed on the Texas frontier.

John Wayne's and John Ford's masterpiece movie, The Searchers (filmed in Monument Valley, maybe the ultimate canyonlands) tells of Comanche Indians kidnapping a “white” girl on the Texas Brazos River frontier, not an uncommon event. During the frontier period, Comanches captured Cynthia Ann Parker, who became the mother of the most famous Comanche Chief, Quanah Parker.

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Shoots from a Yucca plant form a starburst pattern in Impossible Canyon

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Otis Dozier

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