Summer adventures take professor through Western Plains

Published 9:45 am Monday, September 19, 2011

PORTSMOUTH — From the Little Missouri River Badlands of North Dakota to the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, Shawnee State University Geography Professor Anthony Dzik, Ph.D., traveled over the summer studying the land and doing research for a book he is writing.

His book is on lesser-known rudimentary landscapes over the Great Plains, the physical geography and the climatic forces that formed the Plains that are not flat.

“The general perception of the Plains is that they are flat,” Dzik said. “There are a number of small areas that are quite a dramatic departure from being flat.”

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Bison and wild horses were a common site on the lands he traveled. He took hundreds of photos of different areas. The Makoshika (Lakota Sioux for Badlands) State Park in Montana along the Yellowstone River was one area he studied along with the Gloss Mountains of Oklahoma; Duro Canyon in Texas; Toadstool Badlands in Nebraska; Arikaree Breaks, in Kansas; Castle Rock, Bottom of the Ocean in Kansas; and the Little Missouri River Badlands in North Dakota.

Pinnacles and spires called “hoodoos” rise up out of the ground in unusual landscapes. The Gloss Mountains in Oklahoma rise 150 to nearly 300 feet above the relatively even surface of Major County. The region is named for the glossy selenite crystals in the gypsum that are like bits of broken glass that reflect sunlight.

“The Gloss Mountain area is my favorite place in Oklahoma and the Bottom of the Ocean is my favorite place in Kansas,” Dzik said.

In Texas, he went to the Palo Duro Canyon, south of Amarillo that is second only to the Grand Canyon.

“The eastern escarpment of the Llano Estacado, where some of Texas’ major streams begin, is notched with spectacular canyon lands, buttes and badlands topography,” he said.

The working title of his book is “Not That Flat: The Physical Geography of Rugged Sedimentary Landscapes of the Great Plains.”

Although he thought about self-publishing, a publisher in Idaho is interested in seeing his manuscript when it is finished. Dzik has published numerous articles in literary journals and three books, “The Pillars of Kedvale Avenue: A Geography of a Chicago West Side Neighborhood in the 1960s,” “Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare: An American Car Story,” and “The Interpretation of Our Physical Landscape: A Workbook,” with co-author J.W. Piety.