Most, if not all of Cimarron County, Oklahoma is at 4000 feet or higher elevation and contains the highest point in the state at 4973 feet. The climate is semi-arid and averages only 17 inches of precipitation per year. The southern and eastern parts of the county are mostly flat short-grass prairie and farmland. However the northwestern portion is far from flat and contains some of the most interesting topography in Oklahoma, known as Black Mesa.
This is a typical scene in northwestern Cimarron County, a flat-topped mesa formed of black volcanic rock with a blooming tree cholla cactus in the foreground. This mesa could not be photographed in its entirety from this location, even with a wide-angle lens. This photo was created by digitally stitching three separate images into one.
Some of the many unusual rock formations found in the area.
This and the preceding images were made on June 12, 2012.
The tree cholla, which grows up to 6.5 feet tall, is the predominant species of cactus in the area. The buds shown above will open into beautiful purplish red flowers. This and the following photos were made on June 6-7, 2013.
This is a very rugged area and it would be easy to imagine it as the location for a western movie.
The pronghorn is often incorrectly called antelope. It is not a member of the antelope family and is in fact the only member of its family.
A pronghorn doe seen at sunrise on June 7, 2013. The doe has very short horns compared to the bucks more prominent ones. Horns are permanent and unlike antlers are not shed each year.
Pronghorns are supremely suited to life on the high plains. Their vision is so acute that it can detect movement four miles away. Being the fastest animal in the western hemisphere, it can easily outrun any predator and has been clocked at speed up to 70 mph. Running 45 mph is not unusual and it can cruise easily at 30 mph for 15 miles.
Mule deer does captured at sunrise among yucca plants.
Mule deer get their name from their ears, which are larger than those of the smaller white-tailed deer. They inhabit more open areas than the white-tail, which is seldom seen in areas as treeless as this.
Fog is an unusual sight in the Black Mesa as there is usually not sufficient humidity to produce it.
The black-tailed jack rabbit is a another speedy resident of the high plains.
Unlike the pronghorn, deer, and jack rabbit, the badger is a poor runner and depends on its strong claws to dig for its food and defend itself from any predators.
It usually digs for its food which consists mainly of ground squirrels, gophers, rats and mice. Few animals will attack the badger because with its powerful legs and sharp claws and teeth, it is more than a match for a lone dog or coyote. However if given a chance, it prefers to back into its burrow to escape. They are amazing excavators and it is said they can out-dig a man with a shovel.
The bright yellow flowers of the plains prickly pear are easy to spot, especially as they often grow in large clumps as shown below.
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