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Out on the Llano Estacado

Did you ever wonder what it looks like out on the Llano Estacado?

Oh. You don’t know what the Llano Estacado is?

“When we were upon the high table-land, a view presented itself as boundless as the ocean. Not a tree, shrub, or any other object, either animate or inantimate, relieved the dreary monotony of the prospect; it was a vast-illimitable expanse of desert prairie …. the great Sahara of North America. it is a region almost as vast and trackless as the ocean — a land where no man, either savage or civilized permanently abides … a treeless, desolate waste of uninhabitable solitude, which always has been, and must continue uninhabited forever.”

Or so said General Randolf Marcy in 1852.  I’m on my way home this morning, driving through a pretty intense winter storm.  So, for the sake of brevity I give you Wikipedia:

The Llano Estacado lies at the southern end of the Western High Plains ecoregion of the Great Plains of North America; it is part of what was once called the Great American Desert. The Canadian River forms the Llano’s northern boundary, separating it from the rest of the High Plains. To the east, the Caprock Escarpment, a precipitous cliff about 300 feet (100 m) high, lies between the Llano and the red Permian plains of Texas; while to the west, the Mescalero Escarpment demarcates the edge of the Pecos River valley. The Llano has no natural southern boundary, instead blending into the Edwards Plateau near Big Spring, Texas. This geographic area stretches about 250 miles (400 km) north to south, and 150 miles (240 km) east to west, a total area of some 37,500 square miles (97,000 km2), larger than Indiana and 12 other states. It covers all or part of 33 Texas counties and four New Mexico counties.  Some years, a National Weather Service dust storm warning is issued in parts of Texas due to a dust storm originating from the area or from the adjacent lower part of the Southwestern Tablelands ecological region. The landscape is, however, dotted by numerous small playa lakes, depressions that seasonally fill with water and provide important habitat for waterfowl.

And so I give you some takes on the Llano Estacado from around Portales, New Mexico where I’ve been teaching as part of my appointment as the Jack Williamson Endowed Chair for Literature at Eastern New Mexico Univeristy…..

the llano estacado
The llano was much wetter at one time. But agriculture has pumped the great Ogalla aquifer nearly dry.

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the llano estacado
In part because the aquifer has been decimated, the Llano Estacado is littered with the remnants of a once thriving agicultural culture. Many more people lived out here 75 years ago than do now.

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the Llano Estacado
Portales, New Mexico

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Sunset standing right on the New Mexico-Texas border southeast of Portales, New Mexico.


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