Posts Tagged ‘Chihuahuan Desert’

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4

February 12th, 2020

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Four

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3.”

 

Chinle Shales, Chinle Formation, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, 1982 by Philip Hyde from Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde came out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other well-known landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands can be visited. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including here at the Amazon used booksellers.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself, while “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3,” continued the text up to the beginning of this post.

 

For the purposes of this book, the larger desert area of the North American continent is divided into five major regions, the general locations and boundaries of which are described below in the order in which they appear in the book.

The Painted Desert Occupies the drier, southerly portions of what geologists refer to as the Plateau Province, the region from the western edge of the Rocky Mountains to the eastern edge of the Great Basin, extending from southern Wyoming to northern Arizona, and including portions of southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. It is characterized by plateaus and deep canyons made up primarily of sedimentary rocks lying horizontally. The flora and fauna of the Painted Desert are most like those of the Great Basin Desert, and, in fact, some biologists believe the Painted Desert should be considered only a southeastern extension of the Great Basin. However, the Painted Desert cannot be considered hydrologically a part of the Great Basin. One of the major river systems of the West, the Colorado, drains nearly all of the Painted Desert area to the sea. Nor is there much similarity between the landforms of the Painted Desert and those of the Great Basin. With this book’s emphasis on the individual characteristics of each area of desert and the focus on the landscape in each, it is important to make those distinctions.

For the same reasons, I am including as parts of the Painted Desert two areas often left out of it or sometimes included in the Great Basin: Dinosaur National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park, both of which have, for our purposes, closer affinities to the Painted Desert.

The Great Basin Desert is the northernmost and largest of the areas in the North American desert. A large part of it is contiguous with the Great Basin, which, as its name implies, is a region closed hydrologically, that is, with no exterior drainage to the sea. The Great Basin Desert occupies most of Nevada; the western part of Utah to the Wasatch Front; small parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon; and several small border areas of eastern California. Because of its northern location, it has great extremes of climate. The large family of cactuses found in most deserts is nearly absent. It is sometimes called the Sagebrush Desert. The characteristic terrain of the Great Basin Desert consists largely of mountain “islands” surrounded by large valleys without exterior drainage. Many of these basins contain extensive dry-lake bottoms, or playas, and a few hold remnant lakes that are descendants of once vast lakes of the Pleistocene period.

The Mojave Desert adjoins the western side of the Great Basin Desert to the south. It occupies east-central and much of southern California and extends through southern Nevada as far as Utah. The high desert in the northern part of this region gives way in the south to drier, lower, more open country. The Mojave is enclosed on the west and south by mountains, and on the east shades into the Painted Desert along part of the latter’s western boundary. Geologists draw its northern boundary along the Garlock Fault, which runs across most of the Mojave in a general west-to-east direction. For our purposes, however, Edmund Jaeger’s boundary, well north of Death Valley, is more suitable. Like the Great Basin Desert, the Mojave is part of what geologists refer to as the Basin and Range Province. Its terrain is made up of closed basins without exterior drainage.

The Sonoran Desert is perhaps most notable for its variety of xerophilic (adopted to sparse moisture) plants. Flatter, drier, and lower in elevation than its northern desert neighbors, it is named for, and covers much of, the Mexican state of Sonora. It also includes southwestern Arizona, extreme southern California, and nearly all of the Baja California peninsula.

The Chihuahuan Desert is named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and nearly three-quarters of it lies in Mexico. It includes a third of Chihuahua, parts of the states of Coahuila, Durango, a bit of Nuevo León, and a small area in Zacatecas. It also extends across the international boundary into westernmost Texas and southern New Mexico. The Chihuahuan Desert is the driest and most open of ther North American deserts, though like the others it includes many mountain ranges. It lies on a great intermountain plateau between Mexico’s two major mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental. Except for the area drained by the Rio Grande and its major tributary, the Río Conchos, the large basins of the Chihuahuan are without drainage.

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 5.”

Do you prefer the desert, mountains, plains, forest or seashore? What is your favorite desert?

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Three

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in "Drylands: The Deserts of North America" by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey.

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, developed out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness, with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other foundational landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands and its production can be viewed. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including Amazon under “Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde,” or “Drylands Philip Hyde.”

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself. We continue now where that blog post left off…

 

Passing through vast expanses of land that appear to be nearly bereft of any living thing, I wonder at the sight of a small plant braving the harsh environment. Its difficult circumstances do not evoke sympathy; I wonder that the plant grows in spite of difficulties, that it conserves what little moisture it gets and responds to the slightest moisture by blooming exuberantly.

Still another delight feeds the photographer within: the light. Desert light is crystalline and brilliant, making deep shadows and sparkling highlights. This is at least partly a result of the scarcity of moisture in the air—and, until recently, the scarcity of humans and their activities. When there were fewer people, the light everywhere must have had the clear quality that is still to be seen in some of the more remote quarters of the North American deserts.

As a mountain lover, I especially appreciate a characteristic that our deserts share with most of the country from the Rockies west: the deserts of North America are uncommonly mountainous. The two snowiest mountain chains in the country, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades border the northernmost deserts on the windward sides. Scattered throughout all of the deserts are a large number of lesser mountain ranges that cast their own rain shadows on the adjacent areas. Some of these lesser ranges are high enough and wet enough to support forests on their upper slopes. Rising high above the parched plains and valleys below, they may be snow capped in winter, like the higher ones to the west. The White Mountains, Toiyabe, Snake, Ruby, and other ranges in Nevada, along with the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, create their own microclimates: islands of plenty surrounded by desert.

Nowhere in the world is there as much diversity of desert weather as there is in western North America. In western Oregon, California, and Nevada precipitation occurs mostly in winter, in summer only rarely. In the eastern and southern parts of the Mexican deserts, summer is the rainy season. Where rainfall records are available for desert locations, they show radical irregularity. Downpours may occur at random intervals and locations, sometimes exceeding the year’s average in a few minutes or hours. In some places droughts can last several years, with no rainfall at all. The North American deserts are second to none for intensity of summer heat, but the dryness of the air makes the heat more bearable. Death Valley can be as hot on a summer day as any place on earth, while at higher elevations a sweater may be necessary when the sun sets and the air cools.

The great diversity of the vast desert landscape of North America suggests natural divisions that coincide with most scientific classifications. But the actual boundaries of these divisions are not so easy to draw within those of the larger desert region. In most cases, one desert shades into another, so boundaries must be somewhat arbitrary and indefinite, as are all attempts by humans to circumscribe nature. As I write this I think of Sir Francis Bacon saying: “Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with may make you lose your way.”

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4.”

Which is your favorite desert?

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2

January 15th, 2013

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Two

Continued from where the Drylands book text began in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1.”

Where Drylands Began

 

Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho, copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde.

Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho, copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. From the book Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

(View the photograph large: “Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho.”)

Yolla Bolly Press, the same book packager and agent who put together Galen Rowell’s famous book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, collaborated with my father, pioneer color landscape photographer Philip Hyde, to select images and plan the concept for what became one of Dad’s most important books: Drylands: The Deserts of North America. Drylands, with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, introduction and notes on plants and animals of the North American deserts by renowned award-winning naturalist David Rains Wallace and drawings of desert plants and animals by Vincent Lopez was the culmination of Dad’s “wandering in the desert” as he put it, quoting the New Testament. Recently, Yolla Bolly Press donated its archive to Stanford University, which will be the home of Drylands in perpetuity.

In the next blog post in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3,” we will get back into Dad’s text, but first, I will start at the beginning and share some important insider background to round out the story. Also, I will give you a preview of what is to come by presenting the dust cover jacket flap blurbs below.

After he had been the primary illustrator of dozens of books, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich blew Dad’s mind by sending him his only advance ever on a book: a check for $50,000, which is large for a photography book. HBJ then released Drylands: The Deserts of North America in 1987. Reviewers from several major newspapers reviewed Drylands, but the only major review reproduced online today is in the Los Angeles Times. After Drylands received the following review from Library Journal, libraries across the nation purchased the large format book for their collections.

In this beautiful exposition of the five deserts of North America, Hyde’s photographs capture the desolate and sometimes haunting beauty of the desert landscape. Hyde has been exploring the desert for over 30 years and his love for the land is obvious. Unfortunately, his essays here are rather slight compared with the photographs. There is, however, an enlightening introduction by David Rains Wallace about evolutionary mysteries the desert presents. Libraries that can afford this book will not be disappointed by its quality.

By Randy Dykhuis, Grand Rapids Public Library, Michigan.

Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

When I looked up Drylands on WorldCat, I was surprised to find that dozens of university, state and municipal libraries in most states have a copy of the book, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell and even Cambridge in the UK. Many libraries in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand have copies of Dad’s classic color film desert tribute as well.

The Dust Jacket Flaps

Distinguished photographer Philip Hyde and award-winning writer David Rains Wallace pool their talents here, in this dazzling book depicting in words, photographs, and drawings the many faces of the deserts of North America. What emerges is an unforgettable portrait of harsh yet lovely lands with diverse animals and plants and landforms.

Philip Hyde has been photographing the deserts of the North American West since 1951. Drylands reveals 95 full-color brilliant image of the five major deserts:

PAINTED DESERT with soaring cliffs, deep canyons—including the Grand Canyon—and varicolored hills

GREAT BASIN DESERT with climatic extremes and long, parallel mountain chains and mountain “islands” surrounded by dry flatland

MOJAVE DESERT with many-armed Joshua trees and the vast, empty expanse of Death Valley

SONORAN DESERT with high mountains and oversized trees and cactuses—including the saguaro, which grows to spectacular heights

CHIHUAHUAN DESERT with two great rivers, the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos, yet with the driest country.

Hyde’s superb photographs are complemented by luminous descriptions of geographical and geological features and by journal vignettes of his encounters with the drylands.

In his introductory essay, David Raines Wallace looks at the deserts in time: the evolutionary past, the evolutionary future, and today. In his notes, Wallace provides a valuable guide to the characteristic features and habitats of desert plants (ocotillo, paloverde, desert evening primrose) and animals (the sidewinder, mountain lion, kangaroo rat), illustrated by Vincent Perez’s striking line drawings. The book also includes six relief maps.

Drylands is designed and produced in the grand tradition of fine art books. It gives continuing pleasure to those who delight in the splendors of the desert.

PHILIP HYDE’S landscape photographs have been exhibited nationwide. He is represented in several major photograph collections, and his work has appeared in books and magazines. He has written and collaborated on many books on the American West.

DAVID RAINS WALLACE has been writing about nature and conservation for almost ten years. He is the author of six books including The Klamath Knot, for which he was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing in 1984.

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 3.”

What are your experiences in the desert? What does the desert mean to you?