My novel Nearly Canaan starts off in a railroad crossing called Prairie Depot, and my story The Secret Side of Jaya returns there.
Prairie can be found as far east as Ohio, but it’s more extensive out on the Great Plains.
Here are some tidbits about the landscape.
- It’s bigger than I thought. The region runs from the Rio Grande river bordering Mexico all the way to the Arctic Ocean in Canada, and along the Rocky Mountains to the west. Its width is about 500 miles and it covers about a seventh of the continental U.S.
- Rainfall ranges between 13 and 20 inches a year, too little to sustain trees.
- Its natural vegetation is a variety of grasslands. And it’s flat or gently rolling.
- It had immense herds of bison as well as pronghorn. Prairie dogs, coyotes, prairie chicken, and rattlesnakes remain prominent.
- Native American tribes included Blackfoot, Crow, Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Comanche. The nomadic tribes followed the bison migration through the year.
- The introduction of the horse from Europe dramatically changed the Native culture.
- The rural Plains have lost a third of their population since 1920. Ghost towns, which have lost so much population they’re considered extinct, are the most common category of towns.
- The climate includes cold, harsh winters and very hot, humid summers.
- Without natural trees, hills, or mountains, there’s no protection against wind and erosion.
- The region includes Tornado Alley, based on the frequency and intensity of the twisters generated in its open spaces.
What surprises you here?