The Great Plains space the wide expanse that prairie and steppe the lie eastern of the Rocky hills in the united States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S. Claims of Colorado, brand-new Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, south Dakota, phibìc Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, and also the Canadian districts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. In Canada, the hatchet "prairie" is an ext common, and the an ar is known as the Prairie provinces or simply "the Prairies."

The region covers virtually 500 miles (800 km) east to west and also 3,000 miles (4,800 km) north to south. Much of the region was home to indigenous American tribes and enormous bison herds until their decimation during the mid/late 1800s.

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Many areas of the great Plains have come to be productive crop-growing areas due in part to substantial irrigation. While agriculture remains an important industry, it is no much longer the major activity of many plains inhabitants. In the later half of the twentieth and twenty an initial centuries population has become an ext concentrated in metropolitan areas. Employed staff is many often uncovered largely in services, tourism, light manufacturing, construction, finance, insurance, and also technology.

The "wide open plains" has shaped the personality of the people, who have a dynamic respect because that the land and also the forces and wonder the nature.



The classic line for noting the east boundary that the good Plains to be the 100th west meridian, yet others say it should be attracted farther come the east, close to the 97th meridian, and based on the quantity of rainfall—between an area the receives 20 inch (500 mm) or more of rainfall every year and one the receives less than 20 customs (500 mm). This rainfall heat divides the drier plains from the moister prairies. Tho others accept the 95th meridian as the eastern demarcation. Political geographers have gravitated towards the Missouri flow for some finality.<1>

The good Plains are the westernmost portion of the substantial North American inner Plains, i beg your pardon extend eastern to the Appalachian Plateau. The an ar is a high plateau that ranges from one altitude in ~ the base of the Rocky mountains of 5,000 come 6,000 feet (1,500 come 1,800 m) to 1,500 feet at the east edge.

In the unified States, water from the Rocky hills drains eastward via the Missouri River and its tributaries (the Yellowstone, Platte, and Kansas Rivers) and the Red, Rio Grande, and Arkansas rivers. The Red flow of the North creates the boundary in between North Dakota and Minnesota, climate drains into Canada. In Canada, the main drainage is down the Saskatchewan River and also its tributaries.

The sub-arid climate excludes tree growth and opens far-ranging views. The levels evince assorted stages that erosional advance and are sometimes interrupted by buttes, escarpments, and also valleys. However on the whole, a broadly extended surface of moderate relief so regularly prevails the the name great Plains because that the region as a totality is fine deserved.



Because of its location east of the Rocky Mountains, the an excellent Plains receive little precipitation and also can it is in semi-arid in some locations except near rivers and also streams. Rainfall may vary from much less than 10 customs (25 cm) per year on the high levels to around 45 inch (112 cm) per year whereby the tallgrass prairie blends into the eastern deciduous forest. The annual swing that temperature deserve to be as much as 130 levels Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) in between winter and summer. Weather systems frequently move fast on the an excellent Plains, stirring increase the atmosphere. Winter are very cold, despite chinook winds may bring quick spring-like problems in the west regions. The an ar is regularly subjected to extended periods that drought; high winds in the region may then generate terrible dust storms.


From 570 million until about 70 million years ago, shallow seas lay across the interior of the north American continent. Layered sediments, mostly in between 5,000 and also 10,000 feet thick, was deposited and also eventually consolidated right into rock. The sediments rest on a floor of really old rocks. About 70 million years ago the seas to be displaced native the interior by slow uplift of the continent, and the landscape that appeared was the extensive, nearly flat floor that the previous sea.



Miocene date layers under so late Pleistocene and also Holocene class (Agate Fossil Beds nationwide Monument, Nebraska).

The initial, almost horizontal class of absent beneath the inner Plains have actually been tiny disturbed except where hills like the black color Hills were uplifted around 70 million year ago. At those places, which are all in the northern and also southern parts of the an excellent Plains, the sedimentary layers to be warped up and also locally broken by the increase of hot molten absent from the depths. Somewhere else in the internal Plains, however, earth forces of around the same period caused just a re-emphasis of tenderness undulations in Earth"s crust.

Farther west, in the area that the present Rocky Mountains, the land was being uplifted in ~ a an excellent rate follow me a fairly narrow north-trending belt, extending from Mexico to Alaska. The layers of sedimentary absent deposited in the inland sea to be stripped indigenous the comb of the increasing mountainous belt by erosion and transported come its flanks as the gravel, sand, and mud that streams and rivers. This transported sediment was deposited on the plains.

Vegetation grew on this alluvial plain, and also thick accumulations of woody debris were buried to ultimately come to be coal. Together the mountains continued to rise, the eroding streams reduced into the old main point rocks that the mountains, and also that debris also was brought to the flanks and also onto the adjoining plains. The such as mountain belt continued to increase intermittently, and volcanoes began to appear about 50 million year ago. Together, the mountains and volcanoes detailed huge amounts of sediment, i m sorry the streams transported to the plains and deposited. Vegetation continued to flourish, especially in the northern part of the good Plains, and was buried to type the thick coal bed of the ft Union Formation.

Sometime between 5 and also 10 million years ago, however, a good change take it place, apparently as a an outcome of local uplift that the entire western component of the continent. When the streams had been depositing sediment ~ above the plains for more than 60 million years, currently the streams were forced to cut down into and also excavate the sediments castle had formerly deposited. As uplift ongoing the streams reduced deeper and deeper right into the layered stack and developed tributary systems that excavated wide areas. High divides were left between streams in part places, and vast plateaus were formed and also remain in various other places. The great main area was basically untouched by erosion and remained standing over the dissected areas surrounding it as the escarpment-rimmed plateau the is the High Plains.

This downcutting and excavation by streams roughed out the see of the an excellent Plains and also created the sections we speak to the Missouri Plateau, the Colorado Piedmont, the Pecos Valley, the Edwards Plateau, and also the plains Border Section. Nearly all the individual terrain that now exist were created by geologic processes throughout the critical 2 million years.

The United claims Geological inspection divides the good Plains in the united States into 10 subdivisions:

Plains Border—central Kansas and also northern Oklahoma (including the Flint, Red and also Smoky Hills)Colorado Piedmont—eastern ColoradoRaton section—northeastern new MexicoPecos Valley—eastern brand-new MexicoEdwards Plateau—south-central TexasCentral Texas section—central Texas

Canadian prairies

The Prairies is a Canadian terrestrial ecozone the spans the southern locations of the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The ecozone transformed right into a fairly treeless grassland following the critical glacial retreat from 11,000 to 8,000 year ago. Today it is a productive agricultural area commonly referred to as "Canada"s breadbasket." Farmland covers about 94 percent that the land and also is the dominant residential economic task of the zone, also as an important factor in Canadian foreign trade. Herbal gas and also oil are plentiful in the area. Defined by huge tracts that flat and also rolling plains, it however exhibits a selection of relief, consisting of hummocky lands and deep flow valleys.

Despite the advantage of farming, less than 10 percent the the population is affiliated in agriculture. It is a extremely urbanized area, through all the significant population centers of this provinces located in this ecozone. Practically 80 percent of the region"s four million citizens live in urban areas.

Flora and fauna

Because of your extent and also unusual features, the good Plains provides a range of environments and extremes the climate. The desert of the Southwestern United claims is the residence of drought-adapted plants and animals. Come the east, deciduous forest species can be found among the grasses. In Canada, the north edge the the meadow is bounded by coniferous forests.

The diverted mountainous areas, such as the black color Hills of south Dakota and also the Wichita hills of Oklahoma, are favor islands in the prairie and also often contain types whose nearest relatives might be thousands of miles away. Follow me rivers, streams and the numerous natural and man-made lakes live aquatic plants and the pets that depend on them. The swamp habitats of the prairie are really significant. Fifty percent of every North American shorebirds prevent over at Cheyenne bottoms in Kansas during the spring migration.

Near the Rocky Mountains, shortgrass prairie consists the high plains. In the east, tallgrass predominates wherein it tho exists. Between the tallgrass and the shortgrass prairie lies a changing band of habitat that has both tall and short grasses, however is distinguishable together a separate community—the blended prairie.<2> Any pet that stays on the great Plains have to be adapted for the meadow ecosystem and also extremes the climate.

Lizards, snakes, and turtles are among the reptiles to be found. The American bison is the most famous animal of the good Plains. Its herds were decreased from around 30 million in the 1500s to about 1,000 individuals, though the varieties has make a recovery. Other mammals room ground squirrels, beavers, prairie dogs, rabbits, foxes, and also coyotes.

Migrating shorebirds need areas for resting and also feeding, and also several the these areas are uncovered within the great Plains. Back most human being associate shorebirds through wetlands and ocean shorelines, many species use shortgrass, tallgrass, and also mixed grass prairies because that at least part of your life cycle.


Pre-European contact

Buffalo hunt on the Southwestern Prairies, oil top top canvas painting by john Mix Stanley, 1845, Smithsonian American arts Museum (Washington D.C.)

Historically, the great Plains were the range of the bison and also of the indigenous American people of the Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and others. Eastern sections of the good Plains were occupied by people that stayed in semipermanent villages of planet lodges, such together the Arikara, Mandan, Pawnee, and also Wichita.

European contact

The an initial recorded background of europe in the an excellent Plains happened in Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska from 1540-1542 through the arrival of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, a Spanish conquistador. In that same period, Hernando de Soto crossed in a west-northwest direction in what is now Oklahoma and also Texas. The Spanish thought the an excellent Plains to be the location of the supernatural Quivira and Cíbola, a ar rich in gold. The come of equines with the Spanish offered impetus come the native American culture of the Plains.

In the next hundred years the hair trade attracted countless Europeans come the great Plains, as hair trappers indigenous France, Spain, Britain, Russia, and the young United states made their way across much of the region. After ~ the Louisiana purchase in 1803 and subsequent Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804, the great Plains became more accessible. Beforehand settlements opened up the door to substantial westward expansion, including countless European immigrants, in both the united States and also Canada.

Pioneer settlement

The "Dodge City peace Commission" June 1883. Native left to right, standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, open minded McLain and also Neal Brown.

The move of pioneers onto the plains ultimately led come the near-extinction the the buffalo and also the removed of the indigenous Americans to appointments on marginal land in the mid-nineteenth century. Much of the an excellent Plains became open range, hosting ranching operations wherein anyone was theoretically cost-free to run cattle. In the spring and fall, roundups to be held and also the new calves to be branded and also the livestock sorted the end for sale. Ranching started in Texas and gradually moved northward. Texas cattle were propelled north to rail lines in cities such as Dodge City, Kansas, and Ogallala, Nebraska; native there, cattle were transport eastward. Many foreign, especially British, investor financed the great ranches of the era. Overstocking of the range and the devastating winter of 1886 ultimately resulted in a disaster, v many cattle starved and frozen. From climate onward, ranchers generally turned to raising feed in order to winter their livestock over.

The American house Act of 1862 permitted a settler to case up to 160 acres (65 hectares) that land, listed that he lived on it for a period of five years and also cultivated it. This was later broadened under the Kinkaid act to encompass a homestead of whole section. Thousands of thousands of human being claimed this homesteads, sometimes building sod houses. Numerous of them were not expert dryland farmers and also failures were frequent. Germans native Russia who had previously farmed in comparable circumstances in what is currently Ukraine to be marginally more successful 보다 the average homesteader.

After 1900

The region roughly centered on the Oklahoma Panhandle, including southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, the Texas Panhandle, and extreme northeastern new Mexico was well-known as the Dust Bowl during the so late 1920s and early 1930s. The drought, linked with the impacts of the good Depression, forced countless farmers turn off the land transparent the an excellent Plains.

From the 1950s, on, many areas of the great Plains have end up being productive crop-growing areas because of considerable irrigation. The southern section of the great Plains lies end the Ogallala Aquifer, a substantial underground layer of water-bearing strata date from the last ice cream age. Facility pivot irrigation is used broadly in drier sections of the good Plains, leading to aquifer depletion in ~ a rate that is higher than the ground"s capacity to recharge.


With the movement of people from landscape areas, business has change from that is traditional foundation in agriculture. Indigenous 1989 come 1999, revenue by persons employed in various industries came to be concentrated in locations such together services, tourism, irradiate manufacturing, construction, finance, insurance, and technology. The national mean wage and salary disbursement is $32,702, whereas in levels states, these figures selection from $23,178 to $27,411, in part cases nearly $10,000 less than the rest of the country. Seven of the ten poorest counties in the United says are in the good Plains.<1>

Demographics and also culture

The population of the levels is growing, states John Wunder, professor of history at the college of Nebraska-Lincoln. According to the most recent United states census, all the states in the Plains an ar experienced development from 1990 to 2000, with the white population showing the slowest typical rate that growth, in big part early to rise in other races. The local average shows development rates the 18.7 percent because that African Americans, 17.1 percent for indigenous Americans, 48.0 percent because that Asians, 50.0 percent because that Pacific Islanders, and also 107.8 percent because that Hispanics.<1>

Once believed to be greatly rural and also agrarian, those who live ~ above the levels are more and much more occupying municipalities. The levels is the most urbanized of all the regions of the unified States; the majority of people in each of the five states is dispersed in the 15 most populated cities.

The chronicler James Malin, an skilled on eco-friendly history, detailed the personality of peoples based upon their environments. Civilization of the an excellent Plains to be molded by their levels experiences, expressed through a dynamic respect because that the land and also acknowledgment of social change and retention.<3> The connection between the people and also the land can not be overlooked or ignored.

To define the an excellent Plains—both the land and also the people—one have to use the hatchet "wide open up space." The vastness of the plains has created a vastness in the attitude of its inhabitants. That is not unusual for world on the levels to travel hundreds of miles to hear a concert, attend a powwow, get involved in soccer or baseball tournaments, or also attend church.

This vastness of mental has also engendered a passion for the humanities: The levels states are residence to 5 of the strongest liberal arts councils in the U.S. The Nebraska State Legislature created the first-ever state endowment money for its humanities and also arts councils.<1>

Looking to the future

While the populace of the levels is growing overall, the countryside Plains have actually lost a third of their population since 1920. Several hundred thousand square miles of the an excellent Plains have actually fewer than six persons every square mile—the thickness standard historian Frederick Jackson Turner offered to declare the American frontier "closed" in 1893. Plenty of have fewer than 2 persons per square mile. Over there are more than 6,000 ghost communities in Kansas alone, follow to Kansas historian Daniel Fitzgerald. This difficulty is often exacerbated by the consolidation of farms and the challenge of attracting modern industry come the region. In addition, the smaller sized school-age populace has required the consolidation of institution districts and the closure the high institutions in some communities. This continuing populace loss has actually led part to suggest that the existing use that the drier components of the an excellent Plains is no sustainable, and propose that large parts be revitalized to native grassland grazed through bison.

Wind power

This three-bladed wind generator is the most common modern-day design since it minimizes pressures related come fatigue.

The great Plains add substantially come wind power in the joined States. In July 2008, oilman rotate wind-farm developer T. Boone Pickens referred to as for an invest of $1 trillion to build second 200,000 MW of wind strength capacity in the Plains. Pickens cited Sweetwater, Texas, as an instance of economic revitalization driven by wind power development.<4><5><6> Sweetwater was a struggling town common of the Plains, steadily shedding businesses and also population, till wind turbines pertained to the surrounding Nolan County.<7> Wind power carried jobs to local residents, together with royalty payments to landowners that leased sites for turbines, reversing the town"s population decline. Pickens claims the same financial benefits are feasible throughout the Plains, i beg your pardon he refers to as phibìc America"s "wind corridor." by 2006, Texas surpassed California as the U.S. State v the most set up wind power capacity. Southern Dakota has actually the potential to be the nation"s biggest wind power provider. In 2008, it developed enough power to supply 15,000 homes with power. With the consists of a pending 306-megawatt wind farm, said Dusty Johnson, chairman of the public Utilities Commission, the variety of residents supplied would double. Yet transmission currently are also needed.<8>



Fairchild, D.H. And J.E. Klete. 1993. Woody landscape Plants because that the High Plains. Colorado State University, technological Bulletin LTB93-1.Malin, James C. 1950. Grassland historic Studies: organic Resources utilization in a lift of Science and Technology. Lawrence, KS: The Author.

External links

All links retrieved July 13, 2017.

See more: Which Of The Following Is Not A Characteristic Of The Outer Planets Quiz


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