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July-August 2011

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Colorado's Eastern Plains—High Plains in the Shadow of the Highest Rockies

With a statewide average elevation of roughly 6,800 feet above sea level, including 54 mountains that rise above 14,000 feet, Colorado has the highest average altitude of all 50 states. But mountains define only part of Colorado; 40 percent of the state is vast, open flatland: Colorado's Eastern Plains. Part of the much larger Great Plains, Colorado's Eastern Plains ramp gently upward in altitude from the state's eastern border with Kansas and Nebraska until their abrupt juncture with the steep Rocky Mountains, which define their western periphery. Despite the Eastern Plains' lack of significant terrestrial features—save for some gently rolling hills, a few gorges, and some remote buttes—the skies above them present weather watchers with an atmospheric theater throughout all seasons.

ED DARACK is an independent writer and photographer. Visit his Web site at

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