America by Air: A Mystery in the West

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.
Eric Zimmerman

Here’s a challenge for Chini, from a reader:

As a habitual window-seat photo snapper, I love the aerial photo series. I’ve had a long-running game with my family where we take a photo from the air, send it around to family members, and see who can figure out where it is.

Here’s one that stumped everyone. I took it a couple of years back, from an airliner at cruise altitude. I happened to look down at the right moment and saw this pattern on the ground. I had a hunch what it might be, took the photo, and later confirmed my guess with Google Earth.

Some context that might help: This location is in a fairly arid Western state (obviously). The site is quite isolated, and far from any significant population centers. But it is at the edge of an agricultural valley, rather than in total desert.

I’m curious if any staff or readers get it. I’ll put the the answer in a separate message for spoiler protection.

Any good guesses? Just say hello@.