Geography and Early History of Great Plains

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  • American West: Geography of Plains
    • Stretched from Mississippi River in East to California/ Oregon in West
      • Low Plains to the East: long grass and sufficient rainfall for farming
        • High Plains to the West: short grass and little rainfall. Semi-arid desert in South (e.g. Salt Lake City)
    • Why were the Plains inhospitable and difficult to travel across?
      • Size - vast; difficult to navigate; isolated
      • Lack of trees for firewood/ building
      • Wild Animals - snakes; wolves; stampeding buffalo
      • Weather - harsh climate
        • Winter: very cold; high winds called 'northers'
          • Summer: very hot; fires, drought and tornadoes
      • Natural barriers - mountains and rivers to cross
      • Flat and featureless in East - easy to get lost; fierce heat in summer and no shelter
      • Difficult to grow crops - lack of rainfall and pests (e.g. locusts/   grasshoppers) would eat crops
      • Lack of rainfall - for drinking/ irrigating crops
      • Indian attacks
    • 1840: Whites reached Mississippi and found land to the West of this desolate and inhospitable
    • Explorer Major Harriman-Long coined phrase 'Great American Desert' and described it as 'almost wholly unfit for cultivation and of course uninhabitable'


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