USGS Logo Geological Survey Bulletin 1493
The Geologic Story of the Great Plains


This narrative history of geologic and biologic events in the Great Plains had its origin in a study intended to identify potential National Natural Landmarks in the Great Plains, commissioned by the National Park Service. William A. Cobban, G. Edward Lewis, and Reuben J. Ross of the U.S. Geological Survey were collaborators in that study, and some of their contributions to the history of life on the Great Plains have been incorporated into this narrative, which was undertaken at the urging of Wallace R. Hansen.

The photographic illustrations, other than those obtained from the film library of the U.S. Geological Survey, were provided by the interest and effort of my friends and colleagues of the Geological Survey—including C.R. Dunrud, V.L. Freeman, C.D. Miller, R.D. Miller, F.W. Osterwald, R.L. Parker, W.H. Raymond, III, Kenneth Shaver, and R.B. Taylor— and by Eugene Shearer, Intraserarch, Inc., Denver, Colo. Without their help this publication would not have been possible.

Denver, Colorado.

But from these immense prairies ma arise one great advantage to the United States, viz., the restriction of our population to some certain limits, and thereby a continuation of the union. Our citizens being so prone to rambling, and extending themselves on the frontiers, will, through necessity, be constrained to limit their extent on the west to the borders of the Missouri and the Mississippi, while they leave the prairies, incapable of cultivation, to the wanderng and uncivilized Aborigines of the country.

Zebulon Pike

Exploratory Travels Through The Western Territories of North America comprising a voyage from St. Louis, on the Missisippi, to the source of that river, and a journey through the interior of Louisiana and the north-eastern provinces of New Spain. Performed in the years 1805, 1806, 1807, by order of the Government of the United States. By Zebulon Montgomery Pike. Published by Paternoster-Row, London, 1811: H. W. Lawrence and Company, Denver, 1889. Quotation from pages 230-231, 1889 edition.

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Last Updated: 28-Dec-2006