Playas exhibit set to open Thursday

By QCS Staff

A special exhibit, featuring the playas of the High Plains opens on Thursday at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Playas are a unique natural feature of the High Plains region, and 96 percent of the world’s playas are found right here.

There are over 20,000 playas in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains alone. Despite their common occurrence, the crucial role they play in the ecology and hydrology of the region is little known and even less appreciated.

Because they represent a reliable source of water in a semiarid environment, they have always been a magnet for animals and their human hunters throughout prehistory and into historic times. The first settlers, and the first towns, focused on the playas.

Many playas have names and long, colorful histories. All this information is conveyed in the exhibit that’s designed for teachers, local residents and tourists.

The exhibit is viewed in-the-round, like a playa lake. Visitors walk around 20 panels covering a wide range of topics about playas, including function, history, natural history, art, uses, and abuses. They can then walk inside the circle, into the “playarama,” a 360-degree panoramic photograph. The full circle arrangement requires 1,000 square feet of gallery space.

Thanks to the generosity of four major donors, the exhibit is traveling around the playa lakes region of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska through 2008.

The exhibit will be at the Tucumcari Convention Center – Exhibit Hall from Thursday through Jan. 31. Monday through Friday and by appointment.

Playa Facts

l Playas recharge the High Plains/Ogallala Aquifer
l Playas support more than 200 bird species, 37 mammals, 13 amphibian species, and over 340 plant species
l More than 90 percent of playas are privately owned
l More than 60,000 playas are found on the High Plains

Statistics about playas in Quay County
l Number of playas: 159
Smallest playa: 0.7 acres
l Largest playa: 78.2 acres
l Total playa acres: 1,315.1 acres
l Mean playa size: 8.3 acres