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Old 02-10-2008, 11:23 PM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,043 posts, read 7,377,803 times
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I've only traveled in the eastern part of the state twice, once between Sydney, Nebraska (gotta check out Cabela's if you go there) and Denver, and the other time between Dodge City, Kansas and Denver. I enjoyed the drive through those areas, though they are vastly different from the mountains of Colorado. Since I have a passion for the simple life (farming and ranching), I enjoyed my travels through those areas. I also like the idea that most of the towns are small, but friendly. I actually hope to go back to some of those places, and visit a few more on future visits. McGowdog covered the topic well, and when he talks about getting to know the people, I know what he means. Most city folk in the United States are too busy trying to live their lives that they never get to slow down to get to know the people that make this country great. Visiting these small towns (and others all across the country), is a great way to get to know these people.
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Old 02-11-2008, 02:25 PM
 
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Has anyone ever visited the Craig Ranch near Limon? Looks like it might be a nice place to spend a day out on the plains. Is it worth stopping?
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Old 02-11-2008, 03:28 PM
 
Location: Denver, CO
5,462 posts, read 14,060,261 times
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Since this thread got revived recently, I might as well ask (going along with runninfiend's question): other than the Pawnee National Grassland way up north (which I've been too), is there any relatively close public wilderness land east of Denver where you can get a sense of what the plains are all about in their natural state, an area that hasn't been plowed over for farming or chewed up by cattle or dammed into reservoirs? Or is it 100% privately-owned agricultural land once you're east of Denver?
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Old 02-11-2008, 03:30 PM
 
296 posts, read 795,931 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegaspilgrim View Post
Since this thread got revived recently, I might as well ask (going along with runninfiend's question): other than the Pawnee National Grassland way up north (which I've been too), is there any relatively close public wilderness land east of Denver where you can get a sense of what the plains are all about in their natural state, an area that hasn't been plowed over for farming or chewed up by cattle or dammed into reservoirs? Or is it 100% privately-owned agricultural land once you're east of Denver?

Good question. It isn't Colorado, but have you driven the Sand Hills of northern Nebraska or the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas? Both are pretty time capsule ecosystems.
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Old 02-11-2008, 03:43 PM
 
8,004 posts, read 15,603,188 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runninfiend View Post
Good question. It isn't Colorado, but have you driven the Sand Hills of northern Nebraska or the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas? Both are pretty time capsule ecosystems.
I love the Sandhills of Nebraska. One of the most unspoiled rural ranching areas left in the United States. Ironically, a lot of Colorado ranchers forced out of Colorado by development are buying ranches in the Sandhills. I know of a couple of them personally. Places like Mullen and Thedord are neat little towns out there. Does get hot in the summer, though.

I remember Thedford quite vividly. Several years ago they built a new Rodeway Inn there. The desk clerk when I checked in at the time was a local rancher's daughter working for the summer before heading back to college. She was, without doubt, one of the three or four most beautiful women I have ever seen--including the "beauties" on TV, movies, or anywhere else. She was also as nice and polite as just about anyone I've ever met. Whoever probably married her got a real peach of a lady.
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Old 02-11-2008, 03:50 PM
 
8,004 posts, read 15,603,188 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vegaspilgrim View Post
Since this thread got revived recently, I might as well ask (going along with runninfiend's question): other than the Pawnee National Grassland way up north (which I've been too), is there any relatively close public wilderness land east of Denver where you can get a sense of what the plains are all about in their natural state, an area that hasn't been plowed over for farming or chewed up by cattle or dammed into reservoirs? Or is it 100% privately-owned agricultural land once you're east of Denver?
The Comanche National Grassland in SE Colorado has some nice areas. Unfortunately, some the nicest shortgrass prairie in SE Colorado is what the Army wants to use to expand their "training area" around Piñon Canyon--another hare-brained "turkey" pork-barrel project that ought to get stabbed in the heart with a wooden stake. Of course, no one dares raise opposition to that Army boondoggle these days (though the local ranchers are sure having fits about it) because to do so labels one as being "anti-military." Well, I'm not anti-military, but there are plenty of other already disturbed areas that the military can use for "desert" training. They don't have to expropriate and tear up one of Colorado's last remaining intact shortgrass prairies ecosystems to do it.
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Old 02-11-2008, 03:51 PM
 
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What about virgin prairies? Are there any left in this part of the country?
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Old 02-11-2008, 03:58 PM
 
Location: CO
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Kent Haruf's book Plainsong is a wonderful fictional account of life on the eastern plains (the town is fictional but based on Yuma). The Denver Center is now featuring a play based on the novel.

The Denver Center For Performing Arts :

Quote:
A Denver Center World Premiere
Set on the high plains of eastern Colorado, this adaptation of the New York Times best-selling novel unflinchingly portrays love and loss in a small ranching community. A school teacher is left alone to care for his vulnerable sons, while two gruff bachelor brothers – knowing little about life beyond the ranch – awkwardly offer a home to a pregnant teenage girl. As their lives intertwine, they survive harshness and cruelty to recreate family and community. Warm, stark, unsentimental, yet poetic – this story taps a deep well of human emotion.
A DCTC Commission.
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Old 02-11-2008, 05:01 PM
 
Location: Denver, CO
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
The Comanche National Grassland in SE Colorado has some nice areas. Unfortunately, some the nicest shortgrass prairie in SE Colorado is what the Army wants to use to expand their "training area" around Piñon Canyon--another hare-brained "turkey" pork-barrel project that ought to get stabbed in the heart with a wooden stake. Of course, no one dares raise opposition to that Army boondoggle these days (though the local ranchers are sure having fits about it) because to do so labels one as being "anti-military." Well, I'm not anti-military, but there are plenty of other already disturbed areas that the military can use for "desert" training. They don't have to expropriate and tear up one of Colorado's last remaining intact shortgrass prairies ecosystems to do it.
So within the state of Colorado, it's basically either Pawnee or Comanche National Grasslands? I had no idea about plans for training field expansion.

I've thought about this for a long time; it seems like most people living in Denver, even natives, don't really have a good sense of the actual land that Denver and the urbanized Front Range sits on. Even schiziophrenic. And I count myself in that group too. I would like to learn more. Everything is always about the mountains, mountain views, mountain this, mountain that. The image of Denver is practically welded to The Rockies. Don't get me wrong; I love the mountains, but the land where the majority of Coloradans live is the plains, not the mountains.

The closest thing I've experienced on a day to day basis that hints of the native landscape is Cherry Creek State Park. Obviously the dam is man-made, but there's a bike trail south of the dam that parallels the Cherry Creek. It's almost like a linear forest in the area immediately lining the creek, with tons of cottonwood trees. Right by the water, it's like a swamp; in the summer there are bugs up the wazoo, swarming and crawling. Then if go about a hundred yards from the creek, the landscape turns totally different, resembling more of a desert, with huge yuccas, short grasses, and many different kinds of short shrubs of which I have no idea what they're called. I've even noticed small prickly pears there-- nowhere near as big as the ones in Arizona, but definitely a prickly pear cactus.

But Cherry Creek state park, especially the parts of it that encompass dry prairie, is a miniscule sliver of the high plains that once stood. Unlike other remote, vast, sparsely settled areas that I'm familiar with, like the Great Basin, the Colorado Plateau, or any of the southwest deserts pretty much, there doesn't appear to be much total wilderness in the Great Plains overall. I've flown over the great plains, seeing it from the window of an airplane, and it appears to be one non stop checkerboard grid of surveyed, compartmentalized rural land from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Mississippi River and beyond. And I'm not complaining-- obviously, that's where our food comes from, I'm just saying it's hard to visualize what the land looks like in its natural state. The closest thing I've seen is on the drive from Santa Fe, NM to Pueblo, CO, especially when you look out east from areas like Trinidad and Walsenburg.
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Old 02-11-2008, 11:13 PM
 
8,004 posts, read 15,603,188 times
Reputation: 8012
Quote:
Originally Posted by vegaspilgrim View Post
So within the state of Colorado, it's basically either Pawnee or Comanche National Grasslands? I had no idea about plans for training field expansion.

I've thought about this for a long time; it seems like most people living in Denver, even natives, don't really have a good sense of the actual land that Denver and the urbanized Front Range sits on. Even schiziophrenic. And I count myself in that group too. I would like to learn more. Everything is always about the mountains, mountain views, mountain this, mountain that. The image of Denver is practically welded to The Rockies. Don't get me wrong; I love the mountains, but the land where the majority of Coloradans live is the plains, not the mountains.

The closest thing I've experienced on a day to day basis that hints of the native landscape is Cherry Creek State Park. Obviously the dam is man-made, but there's a bike trail south of the dam that parallels the Cherry Creek. It's almost like a linear forest in the area immediately lining the creek, with tons of cottonwood trees. Right by the water, it's like a swamp; in the summer there are bugs up the wazoo, swarming and crawling. Then if go about a hundred yards from the creek, the landscape turns totally different, resembling more of a desert, with huge yuccas, short grasses, and many different kinds of short shrubs of which I have no idea what they're called. I've even noticed small prickly pears there-- nowhere near as big as the ones in Arizona, but definitely a prickly pear cactus.

But Cherry Creek state park, especially the parts of it that encompass dry prairie, is a miniscule sliver of the high plains that once stood. Unlike other remote, vast, sparsely settled areas that I'm familiar with, like the Great Basin, the Colorado Plateau, or any of the southwest deserts pretty much, there doesn't appear to be much total wilderness in the Great Plains overall. I've flown over the great plains, seeing it from the window of an airplane, and it appears to be one non stop checkerboard grid of surveyed, compartmentalized rural land from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains all the way to the Mississippi River and beyond. And I'm not complaining-- obviously, that's where our food comes from, I'm just saying it's hard to visualize what the land looks like in its natural state. The closest thing I've seen is on the drive from Santa Fe, NM to Pueblo, CO, especially when you look out east from areas like Trinidad and Walsenburg.
Most of Colorado's Great Plains' shortgrass prairie was homesteaded from the 1870's through the early 1920's and "busted" for wheat production. That, combined with drought, was what led to the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. Most of the national grasslands now found in eastern Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and in the Texas Panhandle were former homestead lands re-acquired by the federal government in the 1930's and replanted to native vegetation. There still is some native shortgrass prairie remaining outside of those grasslands, but it is in private hands and generally not open to the public.

I agree with you that the area in northeastern New Mexico is one of the best examples of what the Great Plains region would have looked like back when. A lot of that is still in huge ranches--some titles descended from Spanish Land Grants predating that part of New Mexico (and Colorado) being ceded to the US by Mexico in 1848.
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