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Great Plains

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Map Legend & Subregion List

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NameColor on Map
Temperate Prairies
West-Central Semi-Arid Prairies
South Central Semi-Arid Prairies
Texas-Louisiana Coastal Plain
Tamaulipas-Texas Semiarid Plain

About the Great Plains

The Great Plains are a flat, open region in central North America, extending north well into Canada and south into eastern Mexico. This region was historically covered by grasslands, but has been heavily developed for agriculture. It is not as heavily settled and urbanized as the eastern temperate forest region.

Rainfall in this region increases as one moves eastward, until one reaches the Eastern Temperate Forests. To the north, this region is bordered by the Northern (Boreal) Forests, to the west, the Northwestern Forested Mountains, and deserts in the southwest.

The flat topography, open vegetation, and drier climate can create large, unpredictable swings of temperature from day to day and week to week. There can also be periods of short-term and long-term drought.

Although this area was dominated by grassland before Western Settlement, fire suppression and development has caused more tree species to become established here.

Photo © Edwin Olson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CC BY 2.0