Oatman Canyon Geographic Location in Legends of Elohey | World Anvil

Oatman Canyon

Geography

Dry and dusty most of the year, Oatman Canyon is a jarring exception to the ocean of waving stalks in the Longgrass Plains.
 
It is shielded from the normal course of wind and rain by a semicircle of hard, sharp hills -- an ancient terminal moraine and fragments of lateral moraines from what must once have been a particularly huge glacier. These slopes are so steep that soil will not stick to them. Their component rock is so hard that all the easily weathered bits have already washed down into the canyon. Nothing grows at the heights; it is all stark, unfriendly rock.
In contrast, the sheltered area of Oatman Canyon is a place of wild changes.
In all seasons, it contains steep-walled creek beds and one wide river bed, most of which never fill up during the wet season and all of which run dry long before the middle of autumn. It borders on Arjory Pond, a spring-fed place of perpetual clear water and potential danger -- no one can say how deep it goes into the ground, but rumors speak of monstrous constructs at its deepest heart forming a temple to a faded demigod. The canyon is speckled with spars and boulders of hard rock, some twined by vines, some shrugging off all except the most patient moss.

Fauna & Flora

When winter ends, as the outside Plains show early shoots of grass dotted by a riot of flowers, snow is still melting at the heights of Oatman Canyon. Water trickles down into the dry creek beds.* Here, too, small plants put up shoots and flowers as fast as they can, but these are hardier species than in the plains: more likely to have sharp ends, brightly colored to attract early pollinators, wasting no time in growing to a height that would gain more sun as they won't stay in place that long before the rains wash them from their starting points.
Few trees grow here. Some can be found near Arjory Pond. Small copses can be found south or southeast of Purgatory Gulch, where the plains take over again.
The other tall plant type to be found in Oatman Canyon is cactus, and that must be an old transplant from distant lands!
By contrast, the soil outside the perimeter of Oatman Canyon is ideal grazing land for herds of cattle, sheep, and other domesticated ungulates.
 
The animal life of Oatman Canyon is also a mix of adapted plains creatures with things otherwise unknown to the Longgrass Plains. Birds, bees, jackrabbits, and insects find early seasonal food in the canyon, but mostly move out to the safer plains once the grass grows higher than a jackrabbit's ears -- because that is usually when the torrential rains of "Wet Season" truly begin. Only ducks and geese are still comfortable in the downpour, and even for them the eating quickly grows slim.
What few creatures remain until the rain stops, and the land starts to dry up, are mostly things small enough to get past the protective needles on the cacti . . .
. . . and the predators which eat them.
 
And the people, of course. Along with the domesticated animals that people always bring.
An explorer will find the occasional feral brood of escaped chickens or scourge of escaped stirges. Are they eating the insects that eat the cacti and vines? Or eating larger critters?

Natural Resources

People of Oatman Canyon can be loosely divided into four categories:
  1. Town residents - comparatively few people live full-time in Purgatory Gulch and conduct "civilized" careers. See Mayor Jaeke Blaze for particulars.
  2. Farmers - mostly found to the south and north of Purgatory Gulch, sweeping back eastward into Oatman Canyon. One can walk for hours between farms without spotting a sign of land cultivation.
  3. Ranchers - each ranch is a collective unit, usually 3-5 families per ranch, with the poorest ranch having 1 herd of 20 or less critters and the wealthiest ranch having 3 separate herds of 30 critters each. The critters in question are probably either cattle or sheep.
  4. "Miners" - Perhaps mining did occur at some point in Oatman Canyon's past. It must not have been particularly profitable. Nowadays anyone who gives their profession as "miner" is surviving mostly on menaces.

* It used to head for Arjory Pond, but now some of the creek beds have been re-channeled into fields or cisterns by some of the ranchers of Purgatory Gulch. Yiara has some Opinions regarding that.

Maps

  • Oatman Canyon
    Revealed at last:
     
    The full interior of Oatman Canyon itself
     
    Historically also known in some circles as "The Dead Place".
     
    Not shown:
    The creeks and riverbeds that form during Wet Season

Articles under Oatman Canyon



Cover image: by CB Ash