Yellow House Draw

By: Charles G. Davis

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: February 1, 1996

Yellow House Draw (or Canyon), a major landmark on the Texas South Plains, cuts a gap of more than thirty-five miles into the eastern edge of the Caprock escarpment in Lubbock and Crosby counties. The canyon received its name from the Casas Amarillas in Hockley County, where Yellow House Draw curves toward the east to expose a yellow cliff that had been likened to the features of a city seen from a distance. Although the headwaters of Yellow House River rise in southeast Bailey County (at 33°53' N, 102°45' W), the canyon is hardly noticeable until central Lubbock County, just north of Lubbock. From there it continues southeast through the north and east sections of the city. Until the 1920s a lake covering about ten acres lay in the canyon where it makes a sharp bend; some people thought that lake was the headwaters of the Brazos River. The canyon becomes more pronounced south of Buffalo Springs Lake, southeast of Lubbock, and eventually reaches a width of five to six miles at its mouth in southwest Crosby County. Above its confluence with Yellow House Draw in Mackenzie Park, Blackwater Draw flows through North Canyon. The North Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River begins where the Blackwater and Yellow House streams merge (at 33°36' N, 101°50' W). The cliff heights below Buffalo Springs average about 200 feet. The canyon was carved by gradual erosion beginning some two million years ago, when the first river began to cut the channel. The presence of the Ogallala aquifer is evident in the southeast part of the canyon, south of the Lubbock feedlots, while Pleistocene deposits are found to the north and west. Artifacts found at the Lubbock Lake National Historic and State Archeological Landmark, within the city limit of Lubbock, indicate that people have inhabited the area for more than 11,000 years. Prehistoric animals occupying the region have included bison, mammoths, camels, early horses, and giant armadillos. Coyotes, wolves, antelope, prairie dogs, and black bears were among later arrivals.

There is some evidence that Francisco Vázquez de Coronado came as far south as the Lubbock Lake site in 1541. At any rate, later Spaniards did follow the canyon, including Father Juan de Salas, who traveled through en route to the natives of the San Angelo region in 1629 and 1632, and two groups of pearl-seekers, who went to the South Concho River in the 1650s. The Lubbock Lake site came to be generally known by the Spanish, who called it La Punta de Agua. The trail through Yellow House Canyon, Blackwater Draw, and Portales Draw provided early travelers with an acceptable route across the South Plains where water could readily be found. Though the Spanish probably knew this, later settlers avoided the region. Ranald S. Mackenzie, however, used the route during an 1872 expedition.

The canyon became the scene of a battle between Comanches under Black Horse and an odd "army" of buffalo hunters on March 18, 1877. In revenge for the killing of an area hunter, forty-six frontiersmen left Rath's store in Stonewall County and tracked the Indians to the north part of Yellow House Canyon (also known to them as Hidden Canyon or Thompson's Canyon) near the Lubbock Lake site. Partially inspired by a barrel of whiskey brought along as supply, the hunters engaged the Comanches in an all-day battle before retreating from the canyon with three wounded men. Soon after this engagement, several buffalo hunters took up temporary residence in the canyon, including John V. and Thomas L. Causey, who built a dugout near Buffalo Spring. Other early settlers of Yellow House Canyon included George W. Singer, who in the 1880s operated a trading post at a site that became part of Lubbock, and sheep rancher Z. T. Williams, who set up his enterprise near Buffalo Spring.

Various ranches have occupied part of the canyon area. In 1885 the XIT Ranch established a supply house at the Yellow House site in Hockley County. Presumably the Causey brothers had built an adobe dwelling there while on a buffalo hunt in the late 1870s. During the 1880s the Western Land and Livestock Company owned land along Yellow House Canyon in southwestern Lubbock County. Other ranchers to utilize canyon lands were George W. Littlefield, H. L. Kokernot, Sam C. Arnett, James F. Newman, the Kidwell family, George Boles, R. M. Wheeler, George Benson, and S. I. Johnson. The canyon once divided the two early settlements of old Lubbock and Monterey in central Lubbock County before local leaders agreed to consolidate the communities in 1890. The towns of Ransom Canyon Village and Slaton, both in southeast Lubbock County, are located in or near the canyon. Mackenzie State Recreation Area, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s, was established in the canyon within the city of Lubbock. Another recreational area, Buffalo Springs Lake, occupies land near Ransom Canyon in southeastern Lubbock County.

H. Bailey Carroll, "Nolan's `Lost Nigger' Expedition of 1877," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 44 (July 1940). Lawrence L. Graves, ed., A History of Lubbock (Lubbock: West Texas Museum Association, 1962). Mondel Rogers, Old Ranches of the Texas Plains (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). Paul I. Wellman, Death on the Prairie: The Thirty Years' Struggle for the Western Plains (New York: Macmillan, 1934). J. W. Williams, "Coronado, from the Rio Grande to the Concho," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 63 (October 1959).

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

Charles G. Davis, “Yellow House Draw,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996