William Henry Jackson, photographic pioneer of the Old West

In August 1870 a small detachment of US cavalry left Camp Carlin, an army supply depot just outside Cheyenne, Wyoming. Following close behind was Ferdinand Hayden, explorer and formerly professor of geology at the University of Pennsylvania. Accompanying him were a motley group of scientists, including a mineralogist, a botanist and a topographical artist. This… Read More

Will wolves return to Texas?

There used to be several subspecies of the grey wolf in Texas and now, to all intents and purposes, there are no wolves at all. They were driven out over the course of the twentieth century, the Mexican wolf practically becoming extinct and the red wolf often being reduced to interbreeding with coyotes. Their systematic… Read More

Wild flowers of Texas

Texas is renowned for its colourful wild flowers which often occur in huge spreads and are the subject of ‘sightings’, when people come from far and wide to view the short-lived splendour. Natural prairies were always full of wild flowers, blooming among the grasses. Here is a small selection of some of the brightest and… Read More

Many rivers to cross

After the Red River, there were nine more rivers to cross on the Chisholm Trail going to Abilene. Washita River Also spelt Ouachita. This is described as one of the most silt-laden streams in North America and its waters are opaque brown over an unstable mud and sand bed. It’s famous for being the site… Read More

Prairie fire

Fire plays a necessary role in the natural cycle of prairie ecology by removing the mass of dead matter which impedes the growth of the young grass. Controlled fires are still used to do the job, but in the days of the first settlers uncontrolled wildfires could sweep across the prairies threatening all in their… Read More

Bluebonnet, State Flower of Texas

  The bluebonnet creates one of the most beautiful and iconic spectacles of Texas. It’s a biennial leguminous plant with bright blue (and also white or pink) pea-like flowers which make a splash of colour across grasslands and along road verges in April and early May around Ennis, in the Blackland Prairie and in similar… Read More

Wildfire and bison – key factors in the survival of prairies

Like so many other things, prairies aren’t what they used to be. Back in the nineteenth century and before, they were vast areas of grassland constituting over forty percent of North America’s natural landscape. They were maintained by the action of two main influences: wildfires and plains bison. Wildfires, sometimes caused by lightning, would sweep… Read More