The white sand beaches of Nebraska

Lake-McConaughy-Nabb-630x420

 

I have previously written about water scarcity, and the Platte River. Today, I want to write just a little about a large man-made lake in Nebraska that serves to impound water from the North Platte river for use by farmers in my old stomping grounds and also to provide water for the river birds of the Big Bend reach of the Platte. An impoundment like this drives environmental purists crazy, but I am a firm believer in these types of reservoirs.

Indeed, the tragedy is that in wet years like this one, we lack the capacity to capture even more water and instead allow the flows to pass through Nebraska unused by man, foregoing the beneficial uses that could be derived from the additional storage of high flows. The Platte River is now a regulated river, and there is no turning back to the “mile wide and inch deep” river of presettlement days.

 

Huge outlet spillway

Huge outlet spillway

 

Lake McConaughy is a reservoir on the North Platte River. It is located 9 miles north of Ogallala, Nebraska, near U.S. Highway 26 and Nebraska Highway 61. It is near the Colorado border, in the Moutain Time zone. When full, the reservoir has a capacity of 1,740,000 acre feet, it covers 35,700 acres and has 76 miles of shoreline (much of it beautiful white sand), making it the largest reservoir in Nebraska.

201006-byways-mcconaughy-boarding

Lake McConaughy was constructed to store water for irrigation for the Tri-County, later renamed Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District (CNPPID), hydro-irrigation project. It brings the water about 115 miles down to the central Platte valley near Lexington via a unique system that uses the Platte River and large scenic dirt canals that are carved into and snake through the hills. CNPPID, a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska, owns and operates the dam and reservoir and an associated hydroplant below the dam. The headquarters of Tri-County is in Holdrege, Nebraska, not far from Lexington.

Unique "canal" carved into the hills conveys the water and provides a beautiful setting to boot

Unique “canal” carved into the hills conveys the water and provides a beautiful setting to boot

The good news this year is that Big Mac is nearly full from all the late rain and the late snow fall that took place upstream in Wyoming. Algis Laukaitis, Lake McConaughy could be full in less than three weeks, JournalStar (June 2, 2015). May it continue to be so.

RGK

Crossing the Platte River into Indian country without a license

25 U.S.C. § 264 (“Any person other than an Indian of the full blood who shall attempt to reside in the Indian country . . . as a trader, or to introduce goods, or to trade therein, without such license, shall forfeit all merchandise offered for sale to the Indians or found in his possession, and shall moreover be liable to a penalty of $500 . . . .)

The South Platte River joins the North Platte River at about North Platte, Nebraska. There the two become one and the name changes to the Platte River. The name is derived from a transliteration of the name given by the Otoe people, and the translation of the name is “flat water.” Famously known for being “a mile wide at the mouth, but only six inches deep” (the saying was also used as a smear against William Jennings Bryan), the Platte is very important to me for a variety of reasons. When I die, I intend to have my ashes dumped into the Platte. But that happy event is not what I am writing about.

In the middle of the state, I practiced law in Lexington, Nebraska from 1974 to 1987. Lexington is on one side of the river (north). For some reason, every time I crossed over the bridge to go south to McCook or Elwood or Beaver City or Stockville or one of those county seat towns, I felt a twinge of anxiety. It was as if I was entering Indian country without a license. I don’t know why, but the judges, lawyers, and legal customs seemed slightly different. Not bad. Just different.

Photo credit: Jetuusp per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  The Platte River in Central Nebraska near where I used to cross the bridge at Lexington.

Photo credit: Jetuusp per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The Platte River in Central Nebraska near where I used to cross the bridge at Lexington looks like this in the fall after irrigation season.

Yesterday, I drove the sixty miles from Lincoln, Nebraska to Omaha, Nebraska to conduct a sentencing hearing. Lincoln, where I live, is south of the Platte. I had to cross the Platte as I headed north and east into Omaha. Once again, driving over the Platte evoked the same anxiety I previously experienced in Lexington. It was as if I was entering Indian country without a license. The judges, lawyers, and legal customs are slightly different. Not bad. Just different.

Photo credit: Babymestizo per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photo is taken from one of the bluffs along the river and quite close to the bridge I crossed on my journey from Lincoln to Omaha.

Photo credit: Babymestizo per Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. The photo was taken from one of the bluffs along the river and quite close to the bridge I crossed on my journey from Lincoln to Omaha. It was taken in July.  In this stretch, the Platte has received additional waters from the Loops and Elkhorn rivers.

Why do I feel a twinge of anxiety when I cross the Platte from where I live to some city on the other side to pursue legal work? Why do I feel as if I am entering Indian country without a license? I don’t know why, but I do.

RGK

PS Yesterday, I stopped on the I-80 bridge which is a “big no-no.” I took the following photographs. I took one driving to Omaha. I took the other driving back to Lincoln. I have been wanting to do this for nearly 25 years. I am not sure why the spirit moved me yesterday.

RGK's photo (May 14, 2014).  The Platte river looking south and east from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.

RGK’s photo (May 14, 2014 at about 11:00 A.M.). The subject and perspective is the Platte River looking south and east from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. The elevation is roughly 20 feet above the river surface.

RGK's photo (May 14, 2014).  The Platte river looking north and west from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraksa.

RGK’s photo (May 14, 2014 at about 3:00 P.M.). The subject and perspective is the Platte River looking north and west from the I-80 bridge between Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. The elevation is roughly 20 feet above the river surface.

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