A recently published book about the Great Plains caught my attention a few weeks back. It’s called Not That Flat and it’s by Anthony J. Dzik who is a Professor of Geography at Shawnee State University in southern Ohio. The book deals with a variety of topographical features within the Great Plains in order to dispell the myth that the region is entirely flat.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Great Plains knows that its generally rolling character is puctuated with areas of greater relief – often in the form of badlands or buttes. Professor Dzik highlights some of the more obscure places in which to find significant topographical relief (many of them have been mentioned in this blog as well), such as the Killdeer Mountains of North Dakota, the Arikaree Breaks of Kansas and the Sweet Grass Hills of Montana. Those places are certainly little known enough, but what I found fascinating were the places I had never seen, and in some cases even heard of before, such as the Gloss Mountains of Oklahoma, the Red Hills of Kansas, and right in my back yard, the Paint Mines of Colorado. Many of these areas are not too far from where I live, and I’m excited to find some time to visit them.
Perhaps the best thing about the book is that its overall message is to redefine the Great Plains as a place of endless variety and intriguing landscapes. This parallels the goal of the Great Plains Trail which seeks to get people out to some of these areas and to view them as places for recreation, and as a refuge from the hectic pace of modern life. For decades, the mountains, forests, and even deserts of America have enjoyed this status as natural refuges. On the flip side, for decades, the Great Plains has wallowed in obscurity as the ugly step sister, but as Professor Dzik proves, it’s really “not that flat.” The time has come for the Great Plains and the grasslands to be added to the list of places where people can come to find adventure, or just to unwind.