September 24, 2010

Self-Advertisement in the Nebraska Sandhills

The faint type reads "Best Cow Country in the World."
A photo from Nebraska Highway 2 in the Sandhills. I had not realized that CBS News' Charles Kuralt once called Highway 2 "one of America's 10 most beautiful highways."

He was right. Highway 2 is to the prairie what California 1 is to the Pacific Coast.

Only instead of a sports car or motorcycle you want a big crew-cab pickup truck, full of BNSF railroad workers out to the job site on the double-tracking project near Mullen.

The empty road curves gently, the hills roll away, the native prairie grasses ripple in the wind.  Everyone talks about "climax forest," but the Sandhills (map here) are one of few places were you can still see huge pieces of "climax prairie." (They just lack buffalo in large numbers.)

Yet the Sandhills are best comprehended from the air. Then you can see that unlike typical uplifted and/or eroded hills, they actually are sand dunes. They line up in rows, as though placed sequentially by a gigantic dump truck.

This must have been awfully raw country when the ice had just melted and the winds blew off the Rockies and the grasses had not yet covered and softened the dunes.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Hey Chas, I love that country too, but it several years to talk the family into vacationing in Nebraska. When they had hiked along the Niobrara, seen the sand hills, Fort Robinson, and the fossil quarry national monument they were glad we went.

Genevieve Netz said...

I grew up in the Sandhills. I think a lot of the area was sandier then than it is now, 60-70 years later. Now, small redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) trees are popping up everywhere, and the ranchers have to spray them to keep them out of the pastures. Redcedar is a pioneer species. Once they are established, other trees follow.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I agree about the red ceders. Once upon a time, fire limited their range!

They contributed to some of the big wildfires in SW Kansas and NW Oklahoma in the past couple of years.