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“After ascending and passing through a narrow strip of woodland, came suddenly into an open and bound less Prairie. This prospect So Sudden and entertaining that I forgot the object of my prosute and turned my attention to the Variety which presented themselves to my view” July 19th, 1804 Journal of William Clark
It must have been quite the view.
When I set foot on new ground I often have the passing fancy I’m the first person to do so, and I get transported back to what it might have been like for the early explorers doing exactly that. It’s been a few hundred years since Lewis and Clark walked these grounds, even longer since the Pottawatomie Indians were here and ~12,000 years since the glaciers retreated from the land and revealed the silted Loess Hills. It’s quite a thing when you think of what’s passed before you on that very spot.
These days, however, most of the native prairie-land is gone. Around the 1800’s most of the mid-west was wild prairie (grasses and forbs) maintained by grazing herds of Buffalo and natural cycles of fire and growth. Intensive farming and encroaching woodland destroyed all but 0.1% of the original grasses. What little remains is preserved in the State Parks and by volunteers.
As for me, I’ll imagine myself viewing the splendor of that first moment. It’s one of the perks of being a traveller.
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