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Desert Diary


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Looking out over the desert from an advantage point on the slope of a mountain, the mental pictures possible are too often set by our preconceptions. Certainly many people from wetter climes will mutter that old refrain, "Nothing but miles and miles of nothing". Yet others will see a beauty in the desert's starkness, seeing a wilderness untouched by the hand of mankind.

The more realistic see the beauty, but are only too well aware that humans have wrought so much change through time that only hints of ancient days now show through. Grasslands changed to mesquite hummock country by a combination of overgrazing by cattle in times of climatic fluctuation. The river, once meandering through time across the broad floodplain, supporting groves of cottonwood and willow, feeding marshes snuggled into abandoned channels, now corseted into a nearly dead constricted channel. Once rugged mountain slopes now blasted into quarries surrounded by man-made cliffs. There still is much beauty in our desert, best seen when we step away from the sprawling cities and webs of highways. But untouched? Not hardly!
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.