But there IS an actual prairie near Gainesville, Florida. Go figure. Where the buffalo roam even.
We made it home for a couple of days before New Year's.
Paynes Prairie was the state's first state park. It's also the subject of one of the great early narratives about nature in the New World.
In 1773, William Bartram traveled south from Philadelphia, sketching and making extensive notes that became Bartram's Travels, first published in 1791 by James and Johnson in Philadelphia.
The author, who was exploring when the Revolutionary War started and who ended up restoring his dad's botanical garden to pass the latter years of the conflict, was reportedly disappointed by the first edition of his 500-plus page opus. As one so often is.
He didn't live to see a second American edition (with the typos fixed), but the book was a hit in Europe.
Bartram's Travels is a delight. I recommend it even without a camping trip to illustrate the wildlife.
Exerpt from page 187
THE extensive Alachua savanna is a level, green plain, above fifteen miles over, fifty miles in circumference, and scarcely a tree or bush of any kind to be seen on it. It is encircled with high, sloping hills, covered with waving forests and fragrant Orange groves, rising from an exuberantly fertile soil.
The towering Magnolia grandiflora and transcendent Palm, stand conspicuous amongst them. At the same time are seen innumerable droves of cattle; the lordly bull, lowing cow and sleek capricious heifer. The hills and groves re-echo their cheerful, social voices.
Herds of sprightly deer, squadrons of the beautiful, fleet Siminole horse, flocks of turkeys, civilized communities of the sonorous, watchful crane, mix together, appearing happy and contented in the enjoyment of peace, 'till disturbed and affrighted by the warrior man.
Exerpt from page 189
THIS isthmus being the common avenue or road of Indian travellers, we pitched our camp at a small distance from it, on a rising knoll near the verge of the savanna, under some spreading Live Oaks: this situation was open and airy, and gave us an unbounded prospect over the adjacent plains.
Exerpt from page 128
THE alligator when full grown is a very large and terrible creature, and of prodigous strength, activity and swiftness in the water.
I have seen them twenty feet in length, and some are supposed to be twenty-two or twenty-three feet; their body is as large as that of a horse; their shape exactly resembles that of a lizard, except their tail, which is flat or cuniform, being compressed on each side, and gradually diminishing from the abdomen to the extremity, which, with the whole body is covered with horny plates or squammae, impenetrable when on the body of the live animal, even to a rifle ball, except about their head and just behind their fore-legs or arms, where it is said they are only vulnerable.