Pioneers and explorers heading west from the Mississippi River must have been astounded at the miles and miles of prairie they encountered. The North American prairies at one time covered a triangular area ranging from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, through the Great Plains, to southern Texas and Mexico. Climate varied over such a vast area, creating tallgrass prairies, a wetter environment in which grass can grow up to ten feet tall; the central Great Plains which features mixed grasses; and shortgrass prairies in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Prairies were naturally self-regulated through climate, grazing of herds of buffalo, elk, deer, and rabbits, and fire. Today only about 1-2 percent of the prairies still exist. Visit the sites below to learn more about prairies and see if one still exists near you.