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The Tavaputs Plateau

Seven Layers of the Tavaputs Plateau

By Easton Smith

PROLOGUE

I began research on the Tavaputs Plateau quite by accident. While driving from Denver to Las Vegas for a conference on conifers or crustaceans (or something, I can’t seem to remember much of my life before this occasion), I found myself on a long stretch of desert highway with a full bladder. I pulled off the next exit I could find and relieved myself into the sand. It was there that I saw a lone elk not three hundred feet in front of me, barely shrouded by a juniper tree. The elk stared at me with impossibly large eyes. I am a scientist, and I say these eyes were too large. But what truly grasped me, so much so that I peed on my shoe without noticing, were the antlers. They sprawled like the arms of an angel oak tree and shined black. A thick, living black. The tar slipped from the antlers in a slow, sensual drip. I followed the elk into the cliffs, and there I began what would become my life’s work: tracking the tar through the veins of this body, the Tavaputs Plateau.

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Tar Sands and Sweet Water

By Kate Savage

From the Edges

By Brooke Larsen, photos by Parker Feierbach 

As Kailey and I organize gear on our bikes, we hear our friends start singing “Paradise” by John Prine. We drop our gear and run through the string of aspen lining our campsite to the small huddle of tar sands resisters harmonizing “Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County down by the Green River where Paradise lay.” Smiles fill our friends faces as they see us run to join. We sing this song often, sometimes changing the lyrics from Muhlenberg County to Uintah County, making our own ode to the Green River that flows through our home region, the Colorado Plateau.

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