Great American Desert

“These frequently mentioned fears of overland travel derived in large measure from the commonly accepted geographic concept of the so-called ‘GreatAmerican Desert,’ an area thought to extend westward from approximately the hundredth meridian to the Rocky Mountains. Until the beginning of the Civil War virtually all maps of these regions in school textbooks and governmental reports were labeled the ‘Great American Desert.’ . . . Prompted largely by reports of the western expeditions of Lieutenant Zebulon Pike and Major Stephen L. Long, the myth of the American desert persevered in some quarters until almost 1880, when it was finally replaced with another concept similarly overdrawn—the myth that the western plain was a garden, a veritable agrarian utopia.”