Prairie Horizontality

“Differing from the card-table surfaces of the formation in Illinois and the lands east of the Mississippi, the Western prairies are rarely flat ground. Their elevation above sea-level varies from 1000 to 2500 feet, and the plateau’s aspect impresses the eye with an exaggerated idea of elevation, there being no object of comparison mountain, hill, or sometimes even a tree to give a juster measure. Another peculiarity of the prairie is, in places, its seeming horizontality, whereas it is never level: on an open plain, apparently flat as a man’s palm, you cross a long groundswell which was not perceptible before, and on its farther incline you come upon a chasm wide and deep enough to contain a settlement. The aspect was by no means unprepossessing. . . .

“These prairies are preparing to become the great grazing-grounds which shall supply the unpopulated East with herds of civilized kine, and perhaps with the yak of Tibet, the llama of South America, and the koodoo and other African antelopes.”