The Lost Savannas of Arizona

Until about 100 Years Ago, Grasses Up to 2 Feet High Blanketed Swaths of the Sonoran Desert


In the Santa Cruz Flats in southern Arizona, the beige of sandy plains, dunes, and clay-filled basins alternate with green swaths of irrigated cotton fields. Save for a rare jackrabbit, the only mammals are underground. Bird-watchers come to see migrating hawks perched on power poles waiting for rodents to venture forth into one of the remaining cultivated maize fields or sod farms.

To call the Santa Cruz Flats a man-killing dust bowl is no exaggeration. Fierce dust storms known as haboobs blow across barren “playacitas”–little beaches of bare ground. When the …

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