2019 Oklahoma Book Award, Design/Illustration (Finalist)

In centuries long past, a vast swath of grassland swept down the center of North America, from Canada’s Prairie Provinces to central Texas. This once-plentiful prairie has now all but disappeared. Humans have grazed, mowed, and plowed the plains, dammed the rivers, and imposed their will on the land and its creatures. Fortunately, some remnants have survived, including the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in northeastern Oklahoma. In this visually stunning volume, wildlife photographer Harvey Payne and historian James P. Ronda offer an intimate look at and into one of America’s Last Great Places.

Spanning nearly 40,000 acres in Oklahoma’s Osage County, the Preserve is a living witness to a world that once existed. But the Osage prairie is not a museum or theme park—and it is not frozen in time. Under the stewardship of The Nature Conservancy, which has overseen its restoration, the Preserve lives on as a fully functioning ecosystem. And for twenty-five years, Payne and Ronda have explored these lands, together and in solitude. Rendered here in brilliant color and paired with Ronda’s informative yet deeply personal commentary, Payne’s photographs open our eyes to the ever-changing world of the Tallgrass Preserve. In chapters focused on grass, sky, birds, bison, and fire, Ronda and Payne reveal that the “Big Empty” is, in fact, teeming with life.

Through interwoven images and words, Visions of the Tallgrass shows that our nation’s grasslands are sacred ground, a priceless piece of our American past—and future.

About The Author

James P. Ronda, is retired as Professor at the University of Tulsa, where he held the H. G. Barnard Chair of Western American History. He is widely recognized for his extensive scholarship on the Lewis and Clark expedition, including the pathbreaking Lewis and Clark Among the Indians. He is also a distinguished historian of the early American fur trade, Astoria and Empire. Professor Ronda’s recent publications include The West the Railroads Made.

Harvey Payne is a renowned nature photographer whose work has been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, books, and calendars. An Osage County rancher, land manager, lawyer, and judge, he played a pivotal role in the Preserve’s creation in 1990, served as its Director until 2008, and now is its Community Relations Coordinator.
Geoffrey M. Standing Bear is Chief of the Osage Nation.

Reviews & Praise
“The classic compositions of Harvey Payne’s photographs have a subtle beauty that attests to the keen eye of a tallgrass prairie native. James Ronda’s compelling prose, itself rich in imagery, beckons reader-viewers into the prairie world to learn interesting lessons on ecology and biodiversity. Visions of the Tallgrass is the result of a wonderful synergy between photographer and author.”—James W. Lish, author of Winter’s Hawk: Red-tails on the Southern Plains

Visions of the Tallgrass is an intimate excursion through the tallgrass prairie. The ethos that Payne and Ronda share is evident on every page. Together, they have created a feast of words and pictures that is to be savored and lingered over.”—The Annals of Iowa

“In many ways, this richly illustrated collection of sentiments announces in spirit and in fact where the pavements ends and the prairie begins. In the authors’ storytelling, the reader is provided a prairie tour, a love letter to the nature of nature.”---Western Historical Quarterly