Llano Estacado
Overview
 
Llano Estacado (ˈʝano estaˈkaðo, (meaning Palisaded Plains), commonly known as the Staked Plains, is a region in the Southwestern
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

 United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico is a region of the U.S. state of New Mexico. The region is sometimes termed the "High Plains" or even "Little Texas". The region is largely coterminous with the Llano Estacado. Eastern New Mexico is generally located at an altitude of over 4,000 feet and is mostly characterized...

 and northwestern Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, including the South Plains
South Plains
South Plains is a vernacular term that refers to a region in West Texas consisting of the portion of the Llano Estacado extending south of the Texas Panhandle, centered at Lubbock. While prominent in the area of petroleum production, the South Plains is mainly an agricultural region, producing a...

 and parts of the Texas Panhandle
Texas Panhandle
The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

. One of the largest mesa
Mesa
A mesa or table mountain is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape....

s or tablelands on the North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n continent, the elevation rises from 3000 feet (914.4 m) in the southeast to over 5000 feet (1,524 m) in the northwest, sloping almost uniformly at about 10 ft/mi.
Encyclopedia
Llano Estacado (ˈʝano estaˈkaðo, (meaning Palisaded Plains), commonly known as the Staked Plains, is a region in the Southwestern
Southwestern United States
The Southwestern United States is a region defined in different ways by different sources. Broad definitions include nearly a quarter of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah...

 United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico
Eastern New Mexico is a region of the U.S. state of New Mexico. The region is sometimes termed the "High Plains" or even "Little Texas". The region is largely coterminous with the Llano Estacado. Eastern New Mexico is generally located at an altitude of over 4,000 feet and is mostly characterized...

 and northwestern Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, including the South Plains
South Plains
South Plains is a vernacular term that refers to a region in West Texas consisting of the portion of the Llano Estacado extending south of the Texas Panhandle, centered at Lubbock. While prominent in the area of petroleum production, the South Plains is mainly an agricultural region, producing a...

 and parts of the Texas Panhandle
Texas Panhandle
The Texas Panhandle is a region of the U.S. state of Texas consisting of the northernmost 26 counties in the state. The panhandle is a rectangular area bordered by New Mexico to the west and Oklahoma to the north and east...

. One of the largest mesa
Mesa
A mesa or table mountain is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape....

s or tablelands on the North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n continent, the elevation rises from 3000 feet (914.4 m) in the southeast to over 5000 feet (1,524 m) in the northwest, sloping almost uniformly at about 10 ft/mi. At such a gradual slope, however, the elevation change is imperceptible to the observer.

Geography and climate

The Llano Estacado lies at the southern end of the High Plains
High Plains (United States)
The High Plains are a subregion of the Great Plains mostly in the Western United States, but also partly in the Midwest states of Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota, generally encompassing the western part of the Great Plains before the region reaches the Rocky Mountains...

 section of the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies 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...

 of North America; it is part of what was once called the Great American Desert
Great American Desert
The term Great American Desert was used in the 19th century to describe the western part of the Great Plains east of the Rocky Mountains in North America....

. The Canadian River
Canadian River
The Canadian River is the longest tributary of the Arkansas River. It is about long, starting in Colorado and traveling through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and most of Oklahoma....

 forms the Llano's northern boundary, separating it from the rest of the High Plains. To the east, the Caprock Escarpment
Caprock Escarpment
The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

, a precipitous cliff about 300 feet (91.4 m) high, lies between the Llano and the red Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 plains of Texas; while to the west, the Mescalero Escarpment
Mescalero Escarpment
The Mescalero Escarpment, also known as the Mescalero Ridge, forms the western edge of the great Llano Estacado, a vast plateau or tableland in the southwestern United States in New Mexico and Texas...

 demarcates the edge of the Pecos River
Pecos River
The headwaters of the Pecos River are located north of Pecos, New Mexico, United States, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet on the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Mora County. The river flows for through the eastern portion of that state and neighboring Texas before it...

 valley. The Llano has no natural southern boundary, instead blending into the Edwards Plateau
Edwards Plateau
The Edwards Plateau is a region of west-central Texas which is bounded by the Balcones Fault to the south and east, the Llano Uplift and the Llano Estacado to the north, and the Pecos River and Chihuahuan Desert to the west. San Angelo, Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio roughly outline the area...

 near Big Spring, Texas
Big Spring, Texas
Big Spring is a city in and the county seat of Howard County, Texas, United States, at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 87 and Interstate 20. With a population of 25,233 at the 2000 census, it is the largest city between Midland to the west, Abilene to the east, Lubbock to the north, and San Angelo...

. This geographic area stretches about 250 miles (402.3 km) north to south, and 150 miles (241.4 km) east to west, a total area of some 37500 square miles (97,124.6 km²), larger than Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

 and 12 other states. It covers all or part of thirty-three Texas counties and four New Mexico counties.

Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 conquistador
Conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

 Francisco Coronado
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado y Luján was a Spanish conquistador, who visited New Mexico and other parts of what are now the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542...

, the first European to traverse this "sea of grass" in 1541, described it as follows: "I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for more than 300 leagues ... with no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea ... there was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by."

After his 1852 expedition to explore the headwaters of the Red
Red River (Mississippi watershed)
The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in the southern United States of America. The river gains its name from the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name...

 and Colorado
Colorado River (Texas)
The Colorado River is a river that runs through the U.S. state of Texas; it should not be confused with the much longer Colorado River which flows from Colorado into the Gulf of California....

 rivers, General Randolph Marcy agreed: "[not] a tree, shrub, or any other herbage to intercept the vision... the almost total absence of water causes all animals to shun it: even the Indians do not venture to cross it except at two or three places." The landscape is, however, dotted by numerous small playa lakes, depressions that seasonally fill with water and provide important habitat for waterfowl
Waterfowl
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans....

.

The Llano Estacado has a semiarid climate (Köppen
Köppen climate classification
The Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification systems. It was first published by Crimea German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1884, with several later modifications by Köppen himself, notably in 1918 and 1936...

 Bsk), characterized by long hot summers and cold winters. Rainfall is extremely low; the entire region receives fewer than 23 inches (58.4 cm) of rainfall annually, and the western part receives as little as 14 inches (35.6 cm). High summer temperatures (average July temperature above 85 °F (29.4 °C)) mean that most of the small amount of precipitation is lost to evaporation, making dry-land farming extremely difficult.

The Llano Estacado is one of the largest cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

-producing regions of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.

Water used today in agriculture on the Llano today is brought to the surface by electric pumps.

Monument Spring, a permanent oasis not far from Hobbs, New Mexico
Hobbs, New Mexico
Hobbs is a city in Lea County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 28,657 at the 2000 census.Hobbs is the principal city of the Hobbs, New Mexico Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Lea County.-Geography:...

, was one of the rare watering places. The "monument" was a pile of caliche
Caliche (Mineral)
Caliche is a sedimentary rock, a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate. This calcium carbonate cements together other materials, including gravel, sand, clay, and silt. It is found in aridisol and mollisol soil orders...

raised by Native Americans to guide people to the spot.

History and name

Coronado named the region after seeing the cliffs of the Caprock Escarpment from the north on his way east from Cíbola
Zuni-Cibola Complex
Zuni-Cibola Complex, which comprises Hawikuh, Yellow House, Kechipbowa, and Great Kivas, is a set of sites near Zuni, New Mexico.It was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1974.Hawikuh Ruins is itself a National Historic Landmark....

. They appeared to be an impenetrable defense for the land, and he called it Llano Estacado, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 for "Palisaded Plains." The name is often mistranslated as "staked plain," giving rise to fanciful stories to explain it. Some allude to yucca
Yucca
Yucca is a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae. Its 40-50 species are notable for their rosettes of evergreen, tough, sword-shaped leaves and large terminal panicles of white or whitish flowers. They are native to the hot and dry parts of North...

 stems, others to stakes driven into the ground as landmarks, and still others to similar, even less plausible objects. None of these has been proven the reason for the name.

The conquistadors reintroduced horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s to the Great Plains since their extinction in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 eons earlier. Some horses escaped and bred in the wild. The Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 tribes of the Plains captured horses and integrated their use into their cultures in the succeeding centuries. Having horses allowed them to expand their territories and hunting grounds. Before this, the dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

 was their largest domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

 animal.

In the early 18th century, the Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

s expanded their territory into the Llano Estacado, displacing the Apache
Apache
Apache is the collective term for several culturally related groups of Native Americans in the United States originally from the Southwest United States. These indigenous peoples of North America speak a Southern Athabaskan language, which is related linguistically to the languages of Athabaskan...

s who had previously lived there. The region became part of the Comancheria
Comancheria
The Comancheria is the name commonly given to the region of New Mexico, west Texas and nearby areas occupied by the Comanche before the 1860s.-Geography:...

, a Comanche stronghold until the final defeat of the tribe in the late 19th century.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the Llano was a refuge for the bands of Kiowa
Kiowa
The Kiowa are a nation of American Indians and indigenous people of the Great Plains. They migrated from the northern plains to the southern plains in the late 17th century. In 1867, the Kiowa moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma...

s and Comanches who did not wish to be cooped up on reservations in Indian Territory
Indian Territory
The Indian Territory, also known as the Indian Territories and the Indian Country, was land set aside within the United States for the settlement of American Indians...

 in present-day Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

. One of their last battles against the US Army was fought in bitter cold on 2 December 1874 in Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Amarillo, Texas, United States. As the second largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly long and has an average width of , but reaches a width of at places. Its depth is around...

. The waterless region was very difficult for the U.S. Cavalry to function. The Native Americans could disappear into the slight draws
Draw (terrain)
A draw a terrain feature formed by two parallel ridges or spurs with low ground in between them. The area of low ground itself is the draw, and it is defined by the spurs surrounding it...

 of the featureless expanse, or into the labyrinths of canyons such as Palo Duro.

Because of the lack of surface water, low rainfall, and the harsher climate, the Llano was one of the last areas to be settled and farmed by European Americans in contemporary Texas. Better well-drilling technology by the late 1910s to 1920s was responsible for the maintenance and growth of many oil
Oil
An oil is any substance that is liquid at ambient temperatures and does not mix with water but may mix with other oils and organic solvents. This general definition includes vegetable oils, volatile essential oils, petrochemical oils, and synthetic oils....

 caprock
Caprock
The Caprock is a region in the Panhandle of Texas . It is the land to the west of the Caprock Escarpment, which separates it from plains stretching to the east at a much lower elevation....

 towns. However, because of overuse of the underground aquifer, since the 1970s, the economy has depended on farmers' returning to dryland crops.

Human population

Because of its difficult conditions, the Llano Estacado has an extremely low population density, as can be seen in the map. Most of the area's population is localized in the principal cities of Amarillo
Amarillo, Texas
Amarillo is the 14th-largest city, by population, in the state of Texas, the largest in the Texas Panhandle, and the seat of Potter County. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The population was 190,695 at the 2010 census...

, Lubbock
Lubbock, Texas
Lubbock is a city in and the county seat of Lubbock County, Texas, United States. The city is located in the northwestern part of the state, a region known historically as the Llano Estacado, and the home of Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University...

, Midland
Midland, Texas
Midland is a city in and the county seat of Midland County, Texas, United States, on the Southern Plains of the state's western area. A small portion of the city extends into Martin County. As of 2010, the population of Midland was 111,147. It is the principal city of the Midland, Texas...

 and Odessa
Odessa, Texas
Odessa is a city in and the county seat of Ector County, Texas, United States. It is located primarily in Ector County, although a small portion of the city extends into Midland County. Odessa's population was 99,940 at the 2010 census. It is the principal city of the Odessa, Texas Metropolitan...

, Texas. The vast majority of the area is rural
Rural
Rural areas or the country or countryside are areas that are not urbanized, though when large areas are described, country towns and smaller cities will be included. They have a low population density, and typically much of the land is devoted to agriculture...

, covered by large ranches and irrigated farms. Several small- to medium-sized towns do exist, however, including Andrews
Andrews, Texas
Andrews is a city in and the county seat of Andrews County in the U.S. state of Texas within the West Texas region. The population was 10,448 in 2009. Along with Midland and Odessa, these cities form the Midland-Odessa Combined Statistical Area with a population of 241,316 in four counties...

, Hereford
Hereford, Texas
Hereford is a city in Deaf Smith County, Texas, United States. The population was 14,597 at the 2000 census. It is the only incorporated Hereford in the country. It is the county seat of Deaf Smith County....

, Plainview
Plainview, Texas
Plainview is a city in and the county seat of Hale County, Texas, United States. The population was 22,336 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Plainview is located at ....

, Levelland
Levelland, Texas
Levelland is a city in Hockley County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 13,542. It is the county seat of Hockley County. It is located on the Llano Estacado, west of Lubbock. Major industries include cotton farming and petroleum production...

, and Lamesa
Lamesa, Texas
Lamesa is a city in and the county seat of Dawson County, Texas, United States. The population was 9,952 at the 2000 census. Located south of Lubbock on the Llano Estacado, Lamesa was founded in 1903. Most of the economy is based on cattle ranching and cotton farming. The Preston E...

, Texas, and Clovis
Clovis, New Mexico
Clovis is the county seat of Curry County, New Mexico, United States. Its population was 32,667 at the 2000 census; according to 2010 Census Bureau estimates, the population had risen to 37,775....

 and Hobbs
Hobbs, New Mexico
Hobbs is a city in Lea County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 28,657 at the 2000 census.Hobbs is the principal city of the Hobbs, New Mexico Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Lea County.-Geography:...

, New Mexico.

The Llano Estacado is larger in area than New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

, excluding Maine. The southern extension of the High Plains, the region is some 250 miles north to south and 200 miles east to west. The roads are straight and meet mostly at right angles. Cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 is an essential crop with irrigation, but faces declining prices at times on the world market. The Llano Estacado is sometimes humorously described as "85 percent sky and 15 percent grassland."

For years, the Llano Estacado was isolated from the state government in Austin
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...

 and the national leadership in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, though powerful lawmakers, such as George H. Mahon
George H. Mahon
George Herman Mahon was a Texas politician who served twenty-two consecutive terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives from the Lubbock-based 19th congressional district....

, Kent Hance
Kent Hance
Kent "The Hancellor" Ronald Hance is a lobbyist and lawyer who was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from West Texas, having served from 1979 to 1985...

, and Robert L. Duncan
Robert L. Duncan
Robert Lloyd Duncan is a Republican member of the Texas Senate from the 28th District, centered on Lubbock. First elected to the Senate in a 1996 special election, Duncan had previously served in the Texas House of Representatives from District 84 from 1989 to 1993.-Background:Duncan is the only...

 emerged to defend its interests. The area has a large number of churches per capita. Lubbock, known for a wide variety of denominations, also holds the distinction of being the most populous city on the High Plains from the Dakotas through Texas. Prohibition
Prohibition
Prohibition of alcohol, often referred to simply as prohibition, is the practice of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation, import, export, sale, and consumption of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the...

 did not end on the Texas Plains in 1933 with repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution established Prohibition in the United States. The separate Volstead Act set down methods of enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, and defined which "intoxicating liquors" were prohibited, and which were excluded from prohibition...

, but continued for years at the county level. Even in 2010, some forty Texas counties, most in the Llano Estacado, remain officially "dry" to the sale of alcohol
Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

.

Geology

The Ogallala Group
Ogallala Aquifer
The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States...

 is a late Tertiary
Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 (Pliocene
Pliocene
The Pliocene Epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 2.588 million years before present. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch...

) sheet of sediments spread over the area east of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 from Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

 to Texas, rather recently in a geological sense, when the Colorado Plateau
Colorado Plateau
The Colorado Plateau, also called the Colorado Plateau Province, is a physiographic region of the Intermontane Plateaus, roughly centered on the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States. The province covers an area of 337,000 km2 within western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico,...

 and Rocky Mountain regions were elevated from near sea level to about their current elevations. The eroded sediments (mainly earlier Tertiary rocks) spread over the low plains to the east. The Ancestral Rocky Mountains had been formed much earlier, at the end of the Cretaceous and the beginning of the Tertiary eras, and had been worn down to near flatness before the late Tertiary uplift. In the northern areas, the Ogallala was spread over earlier Tertiary and Cretaceous rocks. In the Llano Estacado, erosion had removed everything down to the Triassic
Triassic
The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

, and even to the Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

 redbeds. At the southern end, some Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 limestone remained, however. The Ogallala was laid down over all of this by lazy, sandy streams near sea level, which produced the flatness of its surface. Subsequently, the uplift in the west progressed to the east, raising and tilting the Ogallala surface to its present position, and changing the environment from depositional to erosional. Some major rivers, such as the Pecos
Pecos River
The headwaters of the Pecos River are located north of Pecos, New Mexico, United States, at an elevation of over 12,000 feet on the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Mora County. The river flows for through the eastern portion of that state and neighboring Texas before it...

 and Canadian
Canadian River
The Canadian River is the longest tributary of the Arkansas River. It is about long, starting in Colorado and traveling through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and most of Oklahoma....

, incised their courses deeply as the region was elevated, while others, such as the Red
Red River (Mississippi watershed)
The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major tributary of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in the southern United States of America. The river gains its name from the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name...

, Brazos
Brazos River
The Brazos River, called the Rio de los Brazos de Dios by early Spanish explorers , is the longest river in Texas and the 11th longest river in the United States at from its source at the head of Blackwater Draw, Curry County, New Mexico to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico with a drainage...

, and Colorado
Colorado River (Texas)
The Colorado River is a river that runs through the U.S. state of Texas; it should not be confused with the much longer Colorado River which flows from Colorado into the Gulf of California....

 rivers, arose on the dip slope
Dip slope
A dip slope is a geological formation often created by erosion of tilted strata. Dip slopes are found on homoclinal ridges with one side that is steep and irregular and another side, the dip slope, that is generally planar with a dip parallel to the bedding...

. The erosion of these rivers has now defined the area of the Llano Estacado, separating it from its Rocky Mountain sources and from other parts of the High Plains
High Plains
High Plains refers to one of two distinct land regions:*High Plains , land region of the western Great Plains*High Plains , land region adjacent to the Great Dividing Range...

.

Other areas of the Ogallala surface, or High Plains, have the same history. In Wyoming, it is still in contact with the mountains west of Cheyenne (the "Gangplank"), but elsewhere it is separated from the mountains by valleys of Cretaceous and earlier rocks due to active erosion at these higher levels. Only in the Llano Estacado area has the formation of the Caprock given rise to a prominent, distinctive, palisade-like escarpment, as well as to a remarkably flat surface. Further north, rivers such as the Platte
Platte River
The Platte River is a major river in the state of Nebraska and is about long. Measured to its farthest source via its tributary the North Platte River, it flows for over . The Platte River is a tributary of the Missouri River, which in turn is a tributary of the Mississippi River which flows to...

, Arkansas
Arkansas River
The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. The Arkansas generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's initial basin starts in the Western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas...

, and Cimarron have sliced it into segments.

Another distinctive characteristic is that the surrounding rocks are often red, as in Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Amarillo, Texas, United States. As the second largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly long and has an average width of , but reaches a width of at places. Its depth is around...

, making a striking contrast with the light-colored rocks of the plateau. In some other places, the erosional edge of the High Plains
High Plains
High Plains refers to one of two distinct land regions:*High Plains , land region of the western Great Plains*High Plains , land region adjacent to the Great Dividing Range...

 is marked by "breaks" or other abrupt changes of scenery, as in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. In these areas, the High Plains
High Plains
High Plains refers to one of two distinct land regions:*High Plains , land region of the western Great Plains*High Plains , land region adjacent to the Great Dividing Range...

 are usually sandy, rolling plains with normal, branching drainage, not flat surfaces without continuous streams.

Hydrogeology

The "bedrock" of the plain is the indurated top of the Ogallala Group
Ogallala Aquifer
The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States...

, a hard caliche
Caliche
Caliche may refer to:*Caliche, a hardened deposit of calcium carbonate.*Caliche slang, a collection of slang words unique to Salvadoran Spanish....

 layer called the Caprock
Caprock Escarpment
The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

. This was formed when surface drying caused mineral-laden water to rise by capillary action to the surface. Evaporating, the minerals were left behind to cement the otherwise fairly loose sandy sediments of the Ogallala Group. The Caprock is generally covered by sands and soils. Where soils predominate, the land is fertile when irrigated, and is devoted to field crops, including grain and cotton. Irrigation water is mined from the deeper parts of the Ogallala Group by electric pumps, since there is almost no usable surface water. As the pumped water is being used much more rapidly than it is replenished, eventually Llano farmers will be forced to employ dryland cropping systems or return the area to its natural state of sparse grassland.

Other meanings

  • Llano Estacado Winery
    Llano Estacado Winery
    Llano Estacado Winery is a winery located in Lubbock, Texas. Llano Estacado planted its first vineyard in 1978....

     is a winery
    Winery
    A winery is a building or property that produces wine, or a business involved in the production of wine, such as a wine company. Some wine companies own many wineries. Besides wine making equipment, larger wineries may also feature warehouses, bottling lines, laboratories, and large expanses of...

     located near Lubbock, Texas
    Lubbock, Texas
    Lubbock is a city in and the county seat of Lubbock County, Texas, United States. The city is located in the northwestern part of the state, a region known historically as the Llano Estacado, and the home of Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University...

    .
  • "El Llano Estacado" is a traditional folk song
    Folk music
    Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

     adapted by Tom Russell
    Tom Russell
    Thomas George "Tom" Russell is an American singer-songwriter. Although most strongly identified with the Texas Country music tradition, his music also incorporates elements of folk, Tex-Mex, and the cowboy music of the American West. Many of his songs have been recorded by other artists, including...

    .

See also

  • Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
    Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
    Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway is a Texas state park on the Caprock Escarpment in Briscoe County, Texas, United States, approximately southeast of Amarillo...

  • Caprock Escarpment
    Caprock Escarpment
    The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level elevated plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 320 km south-southwest from the northeast...

  • Double Mountain Fork Brazos River
    Double Mountain Fork Brazos River
    The Double Mountain Fork Brazos River is an ephemeral, sandy-braided stream about long, heading on the Llano Estacado of West Texas about southeast of Tahoka, Texas, flowing east-northeast across the western Rolling Plains to join the Salt Fork, forming the Brazos River about west-northwest of...

  • Estacado, Texas
    Estacado, Texas
    Estacado is a ghost town in Crosby and Lubbock counties in the U.S. state of Texas. Located along Farm to Market Road 1527, it was established in 1879 as a Religious Society of Friends colony by Paris Cox and originally named Maryetta after his wife. In 1886, it became the first government seat...


  • List of geographical regions in Texas
  • Mescalero Escarpment
    Mescalero Escarpment
    The Mescalero Escarpment, also known as the Mescalero Ridge, forms the western edge of the great Llano Estacado, a vast plateau or tableland in the southwestern United States in New Mexico and Texas...

  • Mount Blanco
    Mount Blanco
    Mount Blanco is a small white hill — an erosional remnant — located on the eastern border of the Llano Estacado within Blanco Canyon in Crosby County, Texas...

  • Ogallala Aquifer
    Ogallala Aquifer
    The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is a vast yet shallow underground water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains in the United States...


  • Palo Duro Canyon
    Palo Duro Canyon
    Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the city of Amarillo, Texas, United States. As the second largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly long and has an average width of , but reaches a width of at places. Its depth is around...

  • Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
    Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River
    Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River is a sandy-braided stream about long, formed at the confluence of Palo Duro Creek and Tierra Blanca Creek, about northeast of Canyon in Randall County, Texas, and flowing east-southeastward to the Red River about east of the 100th meridian, south-southwest of...

  • Yellow House Canyon
    Yellow House Canyon
    Yellow House Canyon is a canyon that is about long, heading in Lubbock, Texas, at the junction of Blackwater Draw and Yellow House Draw, and trending generally southeastward to the edge of the Llano Estacado about east of Slaton, Texas; it forms one of three major canyons along the east side of...

  • West Texas
    West Texas
    West Texas is a vernacular term applied to a region in the southwestern quadrant of the United States that primarily encompasses the arid and semi-arid lands in the western portion of the state of Texas....



External links

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