one suddenly comes upon it hidden in a deep valley (almost a gorge in many places) after a long, slow, hot ride of thirty miles or more over the hills. The Dismal has cut in a number of places a very deep canyon through the hills. Often the sides of this canyon are almost perpendicular, while elsewhere the banks are not so high or steep. Now and then the stream leaps over a ledge of sandstone producing a waterfall a few feet in height which adds to the beauty of the landscape. There are in truth many spots along the Dismal that would make worthy subjects for the landscape painter.
Few would classify Nebraska among the states with lakes, but as a matter of fact there are hundreds of lakes in the state. Many of these lakes are in the Sand Hills, where they usually occur in groups of few to many in various parts of the region. The largest group occurs in Cherry County, with fifty or more lakes. Some of these, such as Hackberry, Dad's, Clear, Willow, Dewey, Red Deer, etc., furnish excellent sport to the fisherman and the hunter. Aquatic vegetation furnishes abundant food for both fish and fowl. The lakes vary from small ponds a hundred yards across to bodies of water a mile or more wide and four to five miles long. From the top of a certain hill in Cherry County more than twenty such lakes may be seen.
There are many people who still think that the Sand Hill region is a plantless waste of wandering dunes. This is far from fact, but nevertheless the vegetation of the region is sparse and there are also many instances of actively moving sands, although by far the greatest portion of the area is effectively protected from wind erosion by the presence of vegetation. Nowhere except in the moister habitats, as in the valleys, do the plants grow densely or close together. On the hills proper the light-colored sand always shows between the individual plants. In places one may cross over areas two hundred yards or more in width and count all of the plants in his path on his fingers.
Notwithstanding the sparseness of the vegetation there are very many species represented in the Sand Hill flora, but in spite of this great number of species that are found over the hills and ridges and in the valleys, the most striking characteristic of Sand Hill vegetation is its great monotony due to the domination of bunch-grasses, which are the controlling elements of the floral covering of the whole region. The bunch-grasses are so named because from each root there arise many straight, wiry stems in close proximity, so that a clump or bundle of fifty to a hundred or more stems are densely crowded together. These bunches occur more or less scattered in a way such that the characteristic tufted nature of the vegetation results, and the numerous smaller species that occur in the intervals are quite effectively concealed.
- Pound and Clements: "Phytogeography of Nebraska," 1898.