by John Lamb
Colorado Springs, Colorado
May 28, 2004
Through all this, one of the central environments depicted in Centennial is the Pawnee Buttes. Before irrigation, settlers discovered most of the Midwest was covered with short grass. These grasses were an important food for the buffalo. However, the homesteaders soon hunted out the buffalo, replaced them with cattle and turned the native prairie into agricultural land. These farming methods soon lead to the Dust Bowl and this where the government stepped in, buying foreclosed farms and replanting the area with native grasses. Today, the Pawnee Grasslands cover almost 200,00 acres.
The highlight of the grasslands are the twin sentinels the Pawnee Buttes. The served as landmarks for the earlier travelers heading west. There is a very nice, easy hiking trail to the buttes, which passes skeletons of extinct animals and arrowheads/spearheads of prehistoric hunters. The trail is a round-trip 3 miles. Parts of the trail are closed from March to June to protect the habitat of nesting hawks.
Springtime is an ideal time to visit the grasslands. That is when the wildflowers are in bloom and the summer hasn't come beating down. A great place to relax and imagine history and Michener's world unfolding itself.
From journal Literary Colorado