Pawnee National Grassland

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Pawnee National Grassland
Pawnee Buttes2010.jpg
The Pawnee Buttes in Pawnee National Grassland
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Pawnee National Grassland
Location Weld County, Colorado, United States
Nearest city Greeley, Colorado
Coordinates 40°49′08″N103°51′14″W / 40.819°N 103.854°W / 40.819; -103.854 Coordinates: 40°49′08″N103°51′14″W / 40.819°N 103.854°W / 40.819; -103.854 [1]
Area193,060 acres (781.3 km2) [2]
Established1960
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Website Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland

Pawnee National Grassland is a United States National Grassland located in northeastern Colorado on the Colorado Eastern Plains. The grassland is located in the South Platte River basin in remote northern and extreme northeastern Weld County between Greeley and Sterling. It comprises two parcels totaling 193,060 acres (78,130 ha) largely between State Highway 14 and the Wyoming border. The larger eastern parcel lies adjacent to the borders of both Nebraska and Wyoming. It is administered in conjunction with the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest from the U.S. Forest Service office in Fort Collins, with a local ranger district office in Greeley. [3]

Contents

The grassland is in an especially depopulated area of the Great Plains. It saw limited cultivation in the early 20th century but was withdrawn from farming after the Dust Bowl. The communities of Keota and Purcell are located within the grassland. The town of Grover is located directly between the two large parcels of the grasslands near Crow Creek. Briggsdale sits at the southern end where State Highway 14 and State Highway 392 meet. State Highway 71 traverses the eastern unit north of Stoneham. The eastern unit is drained by Pawnee Creek, a tributary of the South Platte. The western unit is largely drained by Crow Creek.

Recreation and access

Camping is available at the Crow Valley Recreation Area northwest of Briggsdale. The grassland contains several hiking trails, including one that allows foot access to the Pawnee Buttes, the most notable geologic feature of the grasslands. Bird watching is a popular recreational activity for day hikers, especially at the Chalk Bluffs, a raptor nesting site.

Recreational activities on the Pawnee Grasslands have been somewhat curtailed over the last 10 years due to the discovery of extractable oil and natural gas. According to the US Forest Service, there are 63 active vertical oil and natural gas wells, and less than 3,000 acres of the 193,060 acres is protected from drilling. [4]

Geology

The grasslands is a joining of two soil types. In the east are prairie soils that are deep, and dark or reddish. From the west are chernozems of a chestnut, becoming brown. The chestnut soils are the dominant type across the areas. These soils develop in semiarid climates with 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) of rain annually. They are associated with buffalo grass and blue grama. Around the buttes, the soils are most likely brown soils which are characteristic of cool, semiarid condition and are evidenced by short grasses and shrubs. [5]

Water is available from a Cretaceous period aquifer. Three springs are in the vicinity of the buttes: Nelson Ranch (1 mile (1.6 km) north), old Linglebach Homestead (1 mile (1.6 km) south), and an arroyo (0.51 miles (0.82 km) west). The main access to the aquifer is by windmill pumps. The aquifer is recharged from the west and flows eastward. There are Tertiary and Quaternary aquifers which are recharged by precipitation and seepage from streams. The Brule Formation, where available provides a large quantity of water. [5]

Shortgrass prairie

The grassland is a part of the short grass plains of North America. The best example of this ecosystem are preserved around the Pawnee Buttes where grazing and intensive agriculture have had less impact. There are eleven vegetation zones represented with the most unique being the scarp woodlands on the north face of the buttes. Typical of higher elevations, there are limber pines and relicts of an ice-age forest. [5]

The wildlife of the grasslands is best represented near the buttes, with pronghorn, deer, bison, prairie dog, wolves, coyotes, rabbits, and numerous rodents. Nesting birds include the golden eagle and prairie falcons . [5]

Vegetative zones

Flora

Wildflowers bloom from April through September. The best locations for viewing wildflowers are near rocky outcrops or wet potholes, such as are found near the Pawnee Buttes. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Grassland Area with vegetation dominated by grasses

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Rangeland

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Tallgrass prairie

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Pawnee Buttes

The Pawnee Buttes are two prominent buttes in northeastern Colorado. The west butte is located within the Pawnee National Grassland, while the east butte is on private land in Weld County. Rising approximately 300 feet (91 m) above the surrounding plains, the buttes are erosional remnants left standing in isolation as the surrounding High Plains surface has gradually worn away. The lower portions of the buttes are composed of relatively soft, clay-rich sedimentary rock called the Brule formation. The Brule formation is protected by an overlying layer of sandstone and conglomerate sediments called the Arikaree formation, which are more resistant to weathering.

Blue Mountains (ecoregion) Temperate coniferous forests ecoregion of the United States

The Blue Mountains ecoregion is a Level III ecoregion designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Pacific Northwest, mainly in the state of Oregon, with small areas over the state border in Idaho and southeastern Washington. It is also contiguous with the World Wildlife Fund's Blue Mountain forests ecoregion.

Northern Basin and Range ecoregion

The Northern Basin and Range ecoregion is a Level III ecoregion designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. states of Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and California. It contains dissected lava plains, rolling hills, alluvial fans, valleys, and scattered mountain ranges in the northern part of the Great Basin. Although arid, the ecoregion is higher and cooler than the Snake River Plain to the north and has more available moisture and a cooler climate than the Central Basin and Range to the south. Its southern boundary is determined by the highest shoreline of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, which once inundated the Central Basin and Range. The western part of the region is internally drained; its eastern stream network drains to the Snake River system.

Black-tailed jackrabbit Common hare of the western United States and Mexico

The black-tailed jackrabbit, also known as the American desert hare, is a common hare of the western United States and Mexico, where it is found at elevations from sea level up to 10,000 ft (3,000 m). Reaching a length around 2 ft (61 cm), and a weight from 3 to 6 lb, the black-tailed jackrabbit is one of the largest North American hares. Black-tailed jackrabbits occupy mixed shrub-grassland terrains. Their breeding depends on the location; it typically peaks in spring, but may continue all year round in warm climates. Young are born fully furred with eyes open; they are well camouflaged and are mobile within minutes of birth, thus females do not protect or even stay with the young except during nursing. The average litter size is around four, but may be as low as two and as high as seven in warm regions.

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Achnatherum richardsonii is a species of grass known by the common names Richardson's needlegrass, spreading needlegrass, and Canada mountain-ricegrass. It is native to northwestern North America, where it is distributed from Alaska and Yukon through the western Canadian provinces south to Colorado.

<i>Artemisia filifolia</i> Species of flowering plant

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The ecology of the Great Plains is diverse, largely owing to their great size. Differences in rainfall, elevation, and latitude create a variety of habitats including short grass, mixed grass, and tall-grass prairies, and riparian ecosystems.

Northern mixed grasslands Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion of Canada and the United States

The Northern Mixed Grasslands is one of 867 terrestrial ecoregions defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. This ecoregion includes parts of the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, north-central and eastern North Dakota, most of east South Dakota, and north-central Nebraska in the American Great Plains. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines this ecoregion as the Northern Glaciated Plains.

References

  1. "Pawnee National Grassland". Geographic Names Information System . United States Geological Survey . Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  2. "Land Areas of the National Forest System". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  3. "Pawnee National Grassland". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
  4. "Pawnee National Grassland Oil and Gas Frequently Asked Questions". U.S. Forest Service. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 An Interpretive Resource Analysis of Pawnee Buttes, Colorado; Dissertation; Robert Jack Badaracco; Colorado State University; Fort Collins, Colorado; March 1971
  6. Wildflowers of the Pawnee National Grassland, Pawnee National Grassland, U.S. Forest Service; Greeley, Colorado; 2012