History of the High Plains Retreat Center
The Retreat Center has a rich history. In the late 1950’s, a group of like-minded people saw the need for a nearby campground. Six years after the formation of the Palo Duro Baptist Association in 1953, an assembly ground was purchased for camps and meetings. Area church groups supported buying 319 acres of land between Canyon and Amarillo for $125 an acre. Within the next few years, thirteen churches leased land from the Association and built cabins at the campground. The Amarillo Baptist Association (formerly Palo Duro Baptist Association) and supporters built a dining hall, the 1,000-seat Mays Auditorium, recreational spaces, a manager’s home and B. L. Davis Lodge.
Early on Sunday morning, May 7,1995, a tornado slammed into the High Plains Baptist Assembly, leaving a path of major destruction. The arrival of dawn revealed what looked like a war zone with the manager’s home and shop, the pumphouse, the dining hall and five cabins destroyed. Other buildings on the grounds also suffered various degrees of damage.
The campground committee researched the rebuilding process. The decision was made to begin reconstruction. At the recommendation of architects and property advisors, a new conference center and dining hall was approved. The building program included an R.V. park whose first occupants were Texas Baptist Camp Builders and volunteers. Through the labor and support of many volunteers and organizations a new entrance gate, a conference center and an updated dining facility were completed by 1997.
For the past fifty years, the High Plains Baptist Conference Center has provided thousands of panhandle residents the opportunity to retreat and relax in the wide-open spaces. Neither floods nor tornadoes have been able to destroy the refreshing atmosphere of the facility. In 2009, the Amarillo Area Baptist Association elected a Board of Directors to manage the resources of the campgrounds and reach an expanded audience. Although the mission remained the same, the High Plains Baptist Conference Center was renamed the High Plains Retreat Center and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization by the end of that year.