high desert

A high desert is arid country at high elevation or latitude, also known as cold desert. The High Desert Museum near Bend, Oregon, celebrates and interprets the inland Pacific Northwest and the organisms elegantly adapted to it such as coyotes and big basin sage. Much of the Great Basin, with valleys averaging 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level, qualifies as high desert. Playas such as the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon and the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada are deserts within the high desert. This landscape often goes unappreciated. As Barry Lopez wrote in Desert Notes: “He would drive out then into the great basin over arroyos and across sage flats dotted with juniper and rabbit brush . . . where the government was trying to grow crested wheat grass, trying to turn the high desert into grassy fields for bony Herefords with vacant eyes. . . . He would see, on a long stretch of road, a golden eagle sitting on a fence post.”

Robert Michael Pyle