Great Plains

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The Great Plains are the broad expanse of prairie, steppe and grassland which lie west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Some geographers include some territory of Mexico in the Plains, but many stop at the Rio Grande. In Canada the term prairie is more common, and the region is known as the Prairie Provinces or simply "the Prairies."

The region is about 500 mi (800 km) east to west and 2,000 mi (3,200 km) north to south. Much of the region was home to American Bison herds until they were hunted to near extinction during the mid/late 19th century. It has an area of approximately 1,300,000 km2 (500,000 sq mi). Current thinking regarding the geographic boundaries of the Great Plains is shown by this map at the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln.[1]

The term "Great Plains", for the region west of about the 96th or 98th meridian and east of the Rocky Mountains, was not generally used before the early 20th century. Nevin Fenneman's 1916 study, Physiographic Subdivision of the United States,[2] brought the term Great Plains into more widespread usage. Before that the region was almost invariably called the High Plains, in contrast to the lower Prairie Plains of the Midwestern states.[3] Today the term "High Plains" is used for a subregion of the Great Plains.


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