high plains

Incorrectly referred to, often by residents themselves, as prairie (prairie refers to the vegetation, plains to the landform), the high plains extend southward from near the South Dakota boundary with western Nebraska, encompassing portions of Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado, as if in preface to the altitudinous reach of the Rockies and western ranges. The high plains are distinguished by low hills and buttes overlaid with remnants of shortgrass prairie and an average annual precipitation, including snow, of ten to twelve inches. So they are semiarid, with temperatures ranging from 110 degrees in the summer to 40 in the winter, the precipitation often arriving in cataclysmic thunderstorms and blizzards. Home of bison, deer, and antelope, all still present in diminished herds over its swooping landscape; viewed by earlier eyes as “stretching away and away, beyond the range of vision, over hill, valley, and plain, the skyline unbroken by trees, except a fringe along the course of a stream” (Melvin R. Gilmore, Prairie Smoke).

Larry Woiwode