An extensive area of nearly level land that rises abruptly above a surrounding landscape on at least one side, known also as tableland, is called a plateau. Canyons often encroach on or dissect the plateau’s flat surface, and it is distinguished from similar formations by its breadth— the Columbia lava plateau of eastern Washington and Oregon, for instance, is different from the isolated prominence of a mesa, is larger than a butte, is flat, and presents a dramatic vertical fall on all sides. Plateau also designates the American Indians who inhabited the plateau country between the Cascades and Rockies, and the food-gathering culture there.

Larry Woiwode